After a sentencing regime that, up until 1987, gave judges unlimited discretion, followed by almost two decades of mandatory federal sentencing guidelines, federal sentencing practice has evolved into a combination of detailed, legally interpreted guidelines and reasonably employed judicial discretion. This means that sentencing advocacy has become much more complex, but also much more interesting. This program focuses on how to expand the defense attorney’s creativity to marshal the expansive body of sentencing case law in our client’s favor, how to massage the guidelines by picking and choosing which ones you prefer, and how to show that your client’s conduct is different from the conduct the applicable guidelines were designed to address. The program will also teach practitioners how to mine the guidelines for language that is not directly applicable, but nonetheless analogous and thus persuasive.
This course will also discuss the different ways of telling a client’s story in a sentencing hearing. Consider your client as a character in a Dickens novel—a flawed but worthy individual whose narrative is compelling and sympathetic without being schmaltzy. Viewers will learn how to encourage judges to see the “§3553 factors,” not as a perfunctory checklist, but as an opportunity to consider the individuality and uniqueness of your client and his or her situation.
The course is taught by Susan C. Wolfe, a criminal defense practitioner for over thirty years in the trial and appellate courts. Susan loves sentencing advocacy because it combines the power of intellect with the crucial human element of compassion. After multiple decades as a member of a small and then a big firm, she recently opened a private practice in Midtown, where she continues her zealous advocacy.
- Tell your client’s story in a compelling and persuasive, but not cliched, narrative
- Embrace the guidelines by understanding how to pick and choose your preferred guidelines and distinguish your client’s conduct from the conduct contemplated by the applicable guideline
- Mine the guidelines for analogous language to help make your case
- Use statistics to show that lower sentences were imposed in comparable cases
- Assess the “§3553 factors” to convey the individuality and uniqueness of your client and his or her situation, including, critically, the collateral consequences that will handicap your client for the rest of his or her life