Another Supreme Court term, another chapter in the sentencing saga. Thejustices heard argument Tuesday in two cases that test how muchdiscretion federal district court judges have in sentencing defendantsand examine the standard federal circuit court panels should apply inreviewing those sentences on appeal. At issue in one of the cases: thecontroversial 100:1 ratio used in calculating sentences for traffickingcrack as opposed to powder cocaine.

After the Court’s 2005 decision in United States v. Booker madethe U.S. Sentencing Guidelines advisory rather than mandatory and heldthat appeals courts should review sentences for “reasonableness,” thecircuits adopted various standards for that review. Most fall under thegeneral category of proportionality review, whereby the more thedistrict court deviates from the guidelines range, the stronger thejustification needed for the variance.