"I regret that, before we voted on the amendment, the Attorney General instructed Assistant United States Attorneys across the Nation not to object to defense requests to apply the proposed amendment in sentencing proceedings going forward," Judge William Pryor, Jr. said at a public hearing in Washington. "That unprecedented instruction disrespected our statutory role, 'as an independent commission in the judicial branch,' to establish sentencing policies and practices under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984."
Chief Judge Ricardo Hinojosa [also a member of the Sentencing Commission] stated that he was "surprised" by [a DOJ representative's] statement [defending Holder]. He concurred with Pryor that Holder is setting a "dangerous precedent," noting that two years ago, the Justice Department testified that it was not ready for reductions in sentencing, but that "all of a sudden, because the Attorney General says so" the DOJ has changed its course.
The meeting concluded with [Commission Chairman and] Chief Judge Patti Saris applauding the commission for its unanimous vote. But observers joined Pryor and Hinojosa in condemning Holder's high-handed approach to constitutional boundaries.
"For those committed to the rule of law, the question now goes beyond whether reducing sentences for dealers in dangerous drugs is wise. It's whether the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, is committed to following the law as it exists, or, instead, as he wants and speculates it might become," William G. Otis a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said in a statement. "One way to consider this question is to ask whether, if the Attorney General ordered prosecutors to seek increased sentences that were, at the time, only preliminary, those applauding Mr. Holder's actions would be as enthusiastic as they are today."
Of course one must always be wary of those "observers" perched in academia.