Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1999


Most of the contributions to this outpouring of advice to the new Sentencing Commissioners have to do with the substance of the Guidelines. What follows here is far more prosaic - some suggestions not about what the Commission should do, but about how the Commission should work. I make these suggestions with some trepidation, recognizing the difficulty of the task the new members have undertaken. However, I hope the perspective of one who practiced before and after the Guidelines as a federal prosecutor, participated in the internal workings of the Commission as Special Counsel in 1995-96, and has been a careful observer of the Commission from the academy for the last four years, will at least provide food for thought. The Commission and the Guidelines have been widely criticized, and occasionally ridiculed, over the past decade. Much of the criticism has been undeserved,1 but there is no denying that a once-vibrant and influential agency had slipped into a state of institutional near-paralysis. For the new Commissioners, for at least the first year or two of their terms, the task of revitalizing the U.S. Sentencing Commission will have less to do with grand debates over matters of sentencing policy than with the pragmatic demands of reinvigorating a government organization that has been in suspended animation. Hence, these suggestions.


Published as Frank O. Bowman III, Practical Magic: A Few Down-to-Earth Suggestions for the New Sentencing Commission, 12 Fed. Sent. R. 101 (1999). © 1999 by [the Regents of the University of California/Sponsoring Society or Association]. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on [JSTOR (] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,



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