Appleman on Blakely, Hidden Sentencing, and Retributive Justice

Last Friday, as part of the Works in Progress colloquia series at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Laura Appleman of Williamette Law School (a current guest-blogger here) presented her forthcoming paper on Blakely, hidden sentencing, and retributive justice. Laura’s presentation was as follows:

She began with the problem of hidden sentencing. The term covers different ways that punishment can be given outside the traditional judge and jury setting. Hidden sentencing includes restrictions imposed by parole, probation, or supervised release, and hidden sentencing decisions are typically made by administrators, not judges or juries.

From there, she turned to the recent changes in sentencing law in the past decade. Starting with Apprendi and Ring, and moving to Blakely and Booker, she noted that the Supreme Court has relied on a reinvigorated Sixth Amendment and has demanded that juries make factual findings that support sentencing increases.

From there, she turned to a discussion of what she calls “Blakely’s animating principle” — that any steps to increase the length or severity of a sentence must be decided by some aspect of the community. She situated this idea inside her own view of a new approach to retributive justice. She suggested that community involvement in retributive justice decisionmaking serves to legitimate and reinscribe community judgment.

Finally, she set out her vision of retributive justice. She suggested that the purpose of retribution is to balance burdens between the offender and the community. Retributive justice prevents the offender from elevating himself to a status higher than the community. Requiring community involvement in hidden sentencing helps the community right itself and shows that people’s actions matter in the community.

Laura’s talk was interesting and informative. I liked the focus on hidden sentencing, an area that is not often discussed. I think she’s right that Blakely’s animating principle suggests that hidden sentencing must be done with community involvement. And, of course, I’m already on the record as being in favor of a broader community role for the jury.

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