Published on: Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The White House is nominating seven lawyers for posts on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a bipartisan panel that helps set policies for punishing people convicted of federal crimes. The panel has lacked enough members to do important work since 2019 (article available here).

The diverse slate of picks includes Mississippi U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves, who is in line to be the first Black person to serve as chairman. Judicial opinions by Reeves on the history of racial discrimination and abuses by law enforcement have drawn national attention in the legal community.

Longtime federal public defender Laura Mate is in line to serve as vice chairwoman of the panel. Soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was a vice chair of the panel between 2010 and 2014.

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit was an assistant federal public defender in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and assistant defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia early in his career.

Among the other nominees for the commission is retired federal judge John Gleeson, who now works in private legal practice and speaks out about racial disparities in punishments for drug crimes.

The Sentencing Commission, which sets the framework federal judges use when deciding how to calculate criminal sentences, hasn’t had a quorum since January 2019. As a result, courts have relied on outdated guidance in areas like compassionate release requests that were filed at unprecedented levels during the pandemic.

The other selections are:

  • Claire McCusker Murray, who served as principal deputy associate attorney general in the Trump Justice Department, to be vice chair and commissioner;
  • Claria Horn Boom, a US district judge in Kentucky nominated by President Trump, to be commissioner; and
  • Candice Wong, an assistant US attorney in Washington, to be commissioner.