US v. Dahlin, No. 88 CR 20001.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
Writing for the CourtFranklin C. Cook, Freeport, Ill., for defendant
Citation701 F. Supp. 148
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Ernest DAHLIN, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. 88 CR 20001.
Decision Date25 November 1988

701 F. Supp. 148

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
Ernest DAHLIN, Defendant.

No. 88 CR 20001.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, W.D.

November 25, 1988.

John McKenzie, Asst. U.S. Atty., for U.S.

Franklin C. Cook, Freeport, Ill., for defendant.


ROSZKOWSKI, District Judge.

This action comes before the Court on defendant's motion to declare as unconstitutional the new United States Sentencing Guidelines, 18 U.S.C. § 3551 et seq., promulgated by the United States Sentencing Commission pursuant to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, 28 U.S.C. § 991 et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Sentencing Guidelines are an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power and therefore invalid.

While this Court finds the Sentencing Guidelines constitutionally infirm, we do so today on "delegation of power" grounds only.1 One reason for this somewhat limited opinion is the fact that the United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari in United States v. Mistretta, and Mistretta v. United States, and that case has been fully briefed, see 1 Fed.Sent.R., 139-186 (September, 1988), and was argued before the Supreme Court on October 6, 1988. 57 U.S.L.W. 1060 (October 18, 1988). Therefore, there appears to be no legal value in going beyond the delegation issue when the Guidelines can be invalidated on that ground alone.

In addition, many district courts,2 as well

701 F. Supp. 149
as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,3 have held the Sentencing Guidelines unconstitutional on various other grounds including, but not limited to: separation of powers and the delegation doctrine by placing the Sentencing Commission in the judicial branch; separation of powers doctrine by mandating the inclusion of Article III judges on the Sentencing Commission; separation of powers doctrine by allowing the executive branch, through the President, to exercise the power of appointment and removal of Commission members (some of whom are Article III judges); separation of powers doctrine by assigning judicial duties to the executive branch; violation of due process by significantly limiting judicial discretion in sentencing; violation of due process by creating new crimes; and, finally, a determination of whether any of the provisions of the Sentencing Guidelines are severable.4 It should also be noted that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and many of the district courts which have ruled on this issue have rejected the above-mentioned arguments and held that the Sentencing Guidelines withstand constitutional muster against any or all of these challenges.5

While the Supreme Court's decision in Mistretta may ultimately rest on any one, or all, or none of these constitutional grounds, the finding by this Court that Congress impermissibly delegated responsibilities to the Sentencing Commission obviates any necessity to rule on the various alternative grounds mentioned above. This is especially true in light of the fact that dozens upon dozens of district courts have already issued detailed opinions on this subject setting forth the arguments on both sides of the major constitutional questions,6

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many commentators have written academic articles covering both aspects of this controversy,7 and the Supreme Court will have more than enough insightful information with which to inform their decision. Given this state of affairs, there appears no reason to merely restate what has already been well stated, except by way of reference to those opinions


With respect to the delegation of powers issue, there are two alternative grounds for striking down the Sentencing Reform Act as unconstitutional: First, that decisions involving policy choices and determinations on core fundamental liberties questions are simply "non-delegable" and can only be properly exercised by Congress; and second, that the Sentencing Reform Act actually delegates to the Sentencing Commission the function of defining and determining substantive criminal conduct.


The power to make policy decisions involving "core" or "fundamental" liberties must be treated differently when the delegability of the powers are at issue. The treatment of delegated powers, in areas that affect fundamental liberty interests, must be construed narrowly. Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 129, 78 S.Ct. 1113, 1120, 2 L.Ed.2d 1204 (1958). The Court is persuaded that the issues which surround the constitutional challenges to the Sentencing Reform Act present questions that affect the most fundamental interest — liberty itself. See U.S. v. Eastland, 694 F.Supp. 512 (N.D.Ill. September 8, 1988); U.S. v. Brittman, 687 F.Supp. 1329, 1331-33 (E.D.Ark.1988). And while it is clear that under the proper circumstances, with the requisite specificity in the delegation, Congress may delegate certain matters relating to the penal process, "it may not delegate `so crucial a legislative function as the redrafting of federal criminal penalties.'" Brittman, 687 F.Supp. at 1333 citing U.S. Parole Comm'r v. Geraghty, 719 F.2d 1199, 1212 (3rd Cir.1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1103, 104 S.Ct. 1602, 80 L.Ed.2d 133 (1984).

Therefore, for the reasons outlined above and set out in more detail in the Brittman and Eastland decisions, this Court holds that the delegation of powers doctrine has been violated and thus the Sentencing Reform Act as well as the...

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