Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gall v. United States case brief

Gall v. United States case brief summary
552 U.S. 38 (2007)

Petitioner, an individual who pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute a mixture and substance containing methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), sought certiorari review of a judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which reversed and remanded the district court's decision to sentence petitioner to probation for a term of 36 months rather than imprisonment.

Petitioner joined an ongoing enterprise distributing ecstasy while in college, but he withdrew from the conspiracy after seven months and ceased all drug activity. Three and one-half years after withdrawing from the conspiracy, petitioner pled guilty to his participation. The court of appeals characterized the difference between the sentence of probation and the bottom of petitioner's advisory Guidelines range of 30 months as "extraordinary," and it held that the variance was not supported by extraordinary circumstances.


  • Although the Court agreed that the court of appeals could take the degree of variance into account and consider the extent of a deviation from the Guidelines, the Court held that the court of appeals erred in requiring "extraordinary" circumstances. 
  • The court of appeals' rule requiring "proportional" justifications for departures was not consistent with Booker. 
  • Under the deferential abuse-of-discretion standard that applied to review of sentencing decisions, the Court found that the court of appeals failed to give due deference to the district court's reasoned and reasonable decision that the 18 U.S.C.S. § 3553(a) factors justified the sentence of probation.

The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. 7-2 decision; 2 concurrences; 2 dissents.

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