When Lower Court Judges Don’t Listen
Judge Sheryl Lipman is not a fan of the federal sentencing guidelines, nor the way the guidelines are interpreted and applied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Nonetheless, as a district court judge, she is obligated to follow applicable precedent and the law of the circuit. She also has an obligation to follow the Sixth Circuit’s instructions on remand. Yet that’s not what she did in the case of Dane Schrank, and the Sixth Circuit is not amused.
Today, in U.S. v. Schrank, the Sixth Circuit reversed Judge Lipman for the second time for the same mistake: Imposing a substantively unreasonable sentence. To ensure this does not happen again, the panel sua sponte reassigned the case to another district court judge on remand.
Judge Thapar’s (incredibly brief) opinion for the Court begins:
We have seen this case before. Dane Schrank visited the dark web and downloaded “nearly 1,000 images of babies and toddlers being forcibly, violently, and sadistically penetrated.” United States v. Schrank, 768 F. App’x 512, 515 (6th Cir. 2019). After a government investigation identified Schrank, he confessed and pled guilty to possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B).
The Sentencing Guidelines called for a sentence of 97 to 120 months in prison. Yet the district court imposed a noncustodial sentence of just 1
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