• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the creation of the Criminal Sentencing Commission in 1984, despite its mixture of judicial and executive functions and personnel.

In order to provide more uniformity in sentencing of criminals, Congress passed the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act, which created the Sentencing Commission. The president appointed seven members to the commission, three of whom had to be federal judges selected from a list of six forwarded by the Judicial Conference. The commission was to create guidelines for improving uniformity of sentencing of criminals by federal judges, who previously had broad discretion. Although the law and commission raised separation of powers issues, the Supreme Court upheld the act by a vote of eight to one. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Harry A. BlackmunBlackmun, Harry A.;Mistretta v. United States[Mistretta v. United States] wrote that he did not see an essential conflict in the complex appointment arrangements and activities of the commission, departing from the example of Hayburn’s Case[case]Hayburn’s Case[Hayburn’s Case] (1792). Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, arguing that this act unconstitutionally allowed federal judges to participate in executive branch activities.Criminal Sentencing CommissionJudicial powers;Mistretta v. United States[Mistretta v. United States]Separation of powers;Mistretta v. United States[Mistretta v. United States]Criminal Sentencing Commission

Extrajudicial activities

Hayburn’s Case

Judicial powers

Judicial review

Separation of powers

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