Andrew Cohen

Recent Articles

The Umpires Strike Back

It takes a lot to rile up the federal judiciary. By virtue of their training and temperament, judges don't often whine, complain, or show anger in public. And they almost never air their grievances in the court of public opinion. So it is extraordinary to see some life-tenured jurists so upset these days about a new law they say intrudes on their constitutionally protected independence. Last year, Congress piggybacked on to the Amber Alert bill a provision known as the Feeney Amendment. Named for Florida Republican Representative Tom Feeney, the rider was designed to limit the circumstances in which a federal judge could depart downward in a criminal sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines. Among other things, the Feeney Amendment directed the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the congressionally created independent agency that oversees the federal criminal-sentencing scheme, to change the rules to preclude judges from considering certain mitigating factors -- like a defendant's...