Buford V United States Essay Research Paper

Buford V, United States Essay, Research Paper Brief of BUFORD v. UNITED STATES Certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit No. 99-9073. Argued January 8, 2001–Decided March 20, 2001

Buford V, United States Essay, Research Paper


Certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit

No. 99-9073. Argued January 8, 2001–Decided March 20, 2001

TYPE OF CASE. This case has to deal with the certiorari (Latin for “to be informed”) from the United States Court of appeals for the seventh district. This case raises a question of the sentencing laws. What is the standard of review as it applies when a court of appeals reviews a trial court’s Sentencing Guideline determination as to whether an offender’s prior convictions were consolidated, hence “related,” for purposes of sentencing? In particular, should the appeals court review the trial court’s decision deferentially or de novo?

FACTS OF THE CASE The trial court decision at issue focused on one aspect of the United States Sentencing Guidelines’ treatment of “career offenders,” a category of offender subject to particularly severe punishment. The Guidelines define a “career offender” as an offender with “at least two prior felony convictions” for violent or drug-related crimes. United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual ?4B1.1 (Nov. 2000) (USSG).

Petitioner Buford pleaded guilty to armed bank robbery. At sentencing, the Government conceded that her four prior robbery convictions were related, but did not concede that her prior drug conviction was related to the robberies. The drug crime (possession of, with intent to deliver, cocaine) had taken place about the same time as the fourth robbery, and Buford claimed that the robberies had been motivated by her drug addiction. But the only evidentiary link among the crimes was that the police had discovered the cocaine when searching Buford’s house after her arrest for the robberies.

Moreover, no formal order of consolidation had been entered. The State had charged the drug offense in a separate indictment and had assigned a different prosecutor to handle the drug case. A different judge had heard Buford plead guilty to the drug charge in a different hearing held on a different date; two different state prosecutors had appeared before the sentencing court, one discussing drugs, the other discussing the robberies; and the sentencing court had entered two separate judgments. Petitioner Buford pointed out that the State had sent the four robbery cases for sentencing to the very same judge who had heard and accepted her plea of guilty to the drug charge; that the judge had heard arguments about sentencing in all five cases at the same time in a single proceeding; that the judge had issued sentences for all five crimes at the same time.

The Court of Appeals found the “functional consolidation” question a close one, and wrote, “The standard of appellate review may be disparities.” 201 F. 3d, at 940. It decided to review the District Court’s decision “deferentially” rather than “de novo.” Id., at 942. And it affirmed the trial courts sentencing.

LEGAL ISSUE Should the Seventh Circuit Court consider the convictions of the robberies and drug charge sentence as consolidated for sentencing, and hence related, even if a sentencing court did not enter a formal consolidation order due to logically related and sentencing was joint. This case concerns “functional consolidation.” and decide whether Buford’s five 1992 Wisconsin state-court convictions were “related” to one another, and consequently counted as one single prior conviction, or whether they should count as more than one thus allowing stricter sentencing guidelines.

HOLDING AND DECISION The Seventh Circuit Court believed that the Appellate Court was right to review this trial court decision deferentially rather than de novo. The need for special competence of the district court helped to make deferential review appropriate. That is to say, the District Court is in a better position than the Appellate Court to decide whether a particular set of individual circumstances demonstrates “functional consolidation.”

In addition, factual nuance may closely guide the legal decision, with legal results depending heavily upon an understanding of the significance of case-specific details. See Koon v. United States, supra, at 98-99 (District Court’s detailed understanding of the case 2before it and experience with other sentencing cases favored deferential review); Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U. S. 384, 403-404 (1990) (fact-intensive nature of decision whether to impose sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 made deferential review appropriate); Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U. S. 552, 560 (1988) (District Court’s familiarity with facts of case warranted deferential review of determination whether Government’s legal position was “substantially justified”)

In light of the fact-bound nature of the legal decision, the comparatively greater expertise of the District Court, and the limited value of uniform court of appeals precedent, we conclude that the Court of Appeals properly reviewed the District Court’s “functional consolidation” decision deferentially. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

RULE Under Article 3, section 2 of the United States Constitution, The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law affecting citizens of states. The 8th Amendment for freedom of cruel and unusual punishment not particularly sited but understood.


Certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit

No. 99-9073. Argued January 8, 2001–Decided March 20, 2001