Today, two of the most controversial issues in sentencing law — the length of sentences for crack cocaine offenders and judges’ ability to go outside the federal sentencing guidelines — will intersect in arguments at a federal appeals court panel sitting in Atlanta.

The five cases from the Southern District of Florida, consolidated for oral argument at the 11th Circuit, have the potential to affect many other cases throughout Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The appellate chief at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, Amy L. Weil, said she’d seen about a dozen motions by defendants in the Northern District of Georgia alone that raise the same issue.

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