Chavez-Meza v. United States (Decided June 18, 2018)

Criminal Law

Judges don't need to explain in detail every decision they make.

In this case, the Supreme Court was asked to review a ruling from a lower court that didn't say much. Sometimes legal decisions have lengthy opinions; sometimes they address all the details; sometimes they address a few; and other times they don't say much at all.

Chavez-Meza v United States Decision

That was the case with the ruling that granted Chavez-Meza his sentence reduction. The judge just said that the court had considered the factors and the new sentence was 114 months.

The case

In the case, Chavez-Meza had become eligible for a sentence reduction. He had been convicted of some drug-related offenses, then sentenced based on the Sentencing Guidelines. Then the Guidelines were amended. And when the Guidelines are amended - to a lower range - then people who were sentenced based on that range can apply for a sentence reduction.

Chavez-Meza did. He requested the new minimum (on the new range). And the court granted him just above that. But the ordering judge didn't explain the court's reasoning for not going with Chavez-Meza's request.

Chavez-Meza wanted an explanation. When he was sentenced initially, he'd gotten the minimum on the range. So why didn't he get the new minimum? 

The court doesn't have to explain

In a ruling that said we have to trust in the analytical abilities of judges, the Supreme Court ruled that the judge had done enough in explaining Chavez-Meza's re-sentencing decision.

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And see our Supreme Court decisions page for all of the decisions of this term.