College of Law to Host Symposium Focused on Judicial Discretion and Sentencing, Feb. 18

On Thursday, February 18, the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law will host a symposium titled “Judicial Discretion: A Look Back and Look Forward Five Years After Booker,” an event focusing on criminal sentencing and the role of judicial discretion in determining appropriate sentences. The symposium will run from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (MST) in the College’s Sutherland Moot Courtroom.

“The symposium is designed to bring together leading commentators on the federal sentencing system, who will analyze the proper role of judicial discretion in the criminal sentencing,” notes conference organizer Paul Cassell, a Professor of Law at the College of Law and former federal judge. “The panelists will assess the impact of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Booker on judicial discretion and evaluate mandatory minimum sentencing schemes currently in place.”

Cassell explains that Booker transformed the guidelines from a binding set of directives to federal judges to an advisory set of recommendations. In light of the five years since Booker, he believes it is now possible to assess the effects of that decision and to ask whether the greater freedom given to judges has proven to be a success or a failure. Has the discretion given to judges allowed them to ensure that the punishment they impose fits the crime and the offender? Or has it given judges too much room to indulge idiosyncratic personal preferences?

In addition, panelists will consider the issue of mandatory minimum-sentencing schemes, and will ask whether such sentences have outlived their usefulness. They will also explore whether there are alternative sentencing approaches that could insure tough punishment for dangerous offenders while giving judges needed flexibility in unusual circumstances.

The conference will conclude with a general discussion of sentencing issues and provide an opportunity to audience members to ask questions of the participants.

In addition to Cassell, panelists will include William K. Sessions III, Chief District Court Judge for the District of Vermont and Chair, U.S. Sentencing Commission, who will be providing opening remarks;

Benjamin McMurray, Adjunct Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney College and also Utah Federal Defender’s Office in Salt Lake City;

Douglas Berman, William B. Saxbe Designated Professor of Law at the The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law;

Steven L. Chanenson, Professor, Villanova University School of Law;

Jonathan Wroblewski, Director of the Office of Policy and Legislation, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice; and

Erik Luna, Professor of Law, Washington and Lee School of Law.

Sessions, Berman, Chaneson, Wroblewski and Luna will be participating via video-link from the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C.

“Judicial Discretion: A Look Back and a Look Forward Five Years After Booker” will be held Thursday, February 18, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (MST) at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Sutherland Moot Courtroom. The symposium is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested. Contact Miriam Lovin: or 801-581-7356.

Interested parties can also watch the event live online.

The symposium is offered for 2.5 Hours CLE Credit (pending approval)

Free parking available at Rice-Eccles Stadium. No permit required.