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Gall v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

October 2, 2007, Argued; December 10, 2007, Decided

No. 06-7949


 [*40]   [**591] Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.

In two cases argued on the same day last Term we considered the standard that courts of appeals should apply when reviewing the reasonableness of sentences imposed by district judges. The first, Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338, 127 S. Ct. 2456, 168 L. Ed. 2d 203 (2007), involved a sentence within the range recommended by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines; we held that when a district judge's discretionary decision in a particular case accords with the sentence the United States Sentencing Commission deems appropriate "in the mine run of cases," the court of appeals may presume that the sentence is reasonable. Id., at 351, 127 S. Ct. 2456, at 2465, 168 L. Ed. 2d 203.

The second case, Claiborne v. United States, involved a sentence below the range recommended by the Guidelines, and raised the converse question whether a court of appeals may apply a "proportionality  [****6] test," and require that a sentence  [*41]  that constitutes a substantial variance from the Guidelines be justified by extraordinary circumstances.  See Claiborne v. United States, 549 U.S. 1016, 127 S. Ct. 551, 166 L. Ed. 2d 406 (2006).  We did not have the opportunity to answer this question because the case was mooted by Claiborne's untimely death.  Claiborne v. United States, 551 U.S. 87, 127 S. Ct. 2245, 167 L. Ed. 2d 1080 (2007) (per curiam).  We granted certiorari in the case before us today in order to reach that question, left unanswered last Term. 551 U.S. 1113, 127 S. Ct. 2933, 168 L. Ed. 2d 261 (2007). We now hold that, while the extent of the difference between a particular sentence and the recommended Guidelines range is surely relevant, courts of appeals must review all sentences--whether inside, just outside, or significantly  [***452] outside the Guidelines range--under a deferential abuse-of-discretion standard. We also hold that the sentence imposed by the experienced District Judge in this case was reasonable.

In February or March 2000, petitioner Brian Gall, a second-year college student at the University of Iowa, was invited by Luke Rinderknecht to join an ongoing enterprise [**592]  distributing a controlled substance popularly known as "ecstasy."1  Gall--who was then a user of ecstasy, cocaine,  [****7] and marijuana--accepted the invitation. During the ensuing seven months, Gall delivered ecstasy pills, which he received from Rinderknecht, to other conspirators, who then sold them to consumers. He netted over $30,000.

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552 U.S. 38 *; 128 S. Ct. 586 **; 169 L. Ed. 2d 445 ***; 2007 U.S. LEXIS 13083 ****; 76 U.S.L.W. 4009; 21 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 11



United States v. Gall, 446 F.3d 884, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 11758 (8th Cir. Iowa, 2006)

Disposition: Reversed.


sentence, Guidelines, district court, district judge, conspiracy, probation, court of appeals, factors, disparities, ecstasy, withdrawal, impose sentence, imprisonment, sentencing judge, abuse-of-discretion, unwarranted, circumstances, mandatory, variance, appellate review, advisory, cases, criminal history, appellate court, mathematical, distribute, sentencing decision, recommended, departure, deviation

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Sentencing Guidelines, General Overview, Appeals, Proportionality & Reasonableness Review, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Deferential Review, Imposition of Sentence, Findings, Departures From Guidelines, Sentencing Alternatives, Probation, Conditions, Factors, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Presumptions