Indiana Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2017

Publication Citation

92 Indiana Law Journal 817 (2017)


This Note will explore the rarely discussed consequences that result when courts of appeals freely interpret the Sentencing Guidelines. This Note will not address appellate review of sentences in general, nor will it discuss disparities caused by trial courts. Instead, the discussion below will address a very specific situation, namely when a court of appeals vacates a sentence because, in its estimation, the trial court misapplied the Guidelines. Part I will relate the history of the recent sentencing re-form movement in America, noting particularly which bodies have the authority to decide sentencing policy. Part II will then analyze the interpretive power of the courts of appeals—the sole source of their ability to affect sentencing outcomes—and demonstrate the potential sentencing disparities that may result. Part III will contrast the Sentencing Commission with Congress, demonstrating some key procedural differences between the bodies. Finally, Part IV will propose that courts adopt a strictly textualist interpretation of the Guidelines, justified by the procedural integrity of the Sentencing Commission, that would minimize intercircuit sentencing disparities and return discretion to its rightful possessors.