Proskauer Pro Bono Victory in U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Fair Sentencing Act
June 21, 2012 (New York) – Global law firm Proskauer won an important victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in a ruling today that the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA), which reduced the disparity in federal sentencing between crack and powder cocaine offenses, applies to defendants who were sentenced after its passage even though their offenses pre-dated the law.
In the consolidated cases of Hill v. United States and Dorsey v. United States, Proskauer Partner Mark Harris, co-head of the firm’s Appellate Group, led a team of lawyers as co-counsel to petitioner Corey Hill. Mr. Hill was arrested in 2007 for selling crack cocaine and given a mandatory 10-year sentence under a harsher law that had been repealed by the time of his sentencing. While the FSA would have required Mr. Hill to receive a mandatory minimum sentence of only 5 years, the courts below applied the repealed law and doubled his sentence, holding that Congress intended the FSA to apply only to defendants who committed their offenses after its passage.
In a 5-4 decision vacating the Seventh Circuit's judgment, the Supreme Court held that the FSA applies to all defendants who were sentenced after its passage, including those like Mr. Hill whose conduct pre-dated the law.
“We are extremely gratified that the Supreme Court accepted our arguments about how Congress wanted the Fair Sentencing Act to work,” said Mark Harris. “The Court's decision today means that thousands of defendants whose punishments Congress thought were unfairly severe will now receive more just sentences.”
The Proskauer legal team included litigation lawyers Richard L. Spinogatti, Anna G. Kaminska, Jonathan P. Shaub and Andrew S. Wellin; labor and employment lawyer Rebecca Lynn Berkebile and senior paralegal Joan K. Hoffman, all of the New York office. The team collaborated with Illinois lawyer Stephen E. Eberhardt (counsel of record), Professor Douglas A. Berman of the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University and William H. Theis of the Federal Defender Program, Inc.
Proskauer’s Pro Bono Initiative supports the firm’s pro bono efforts by ensuring that the firm’s lawyers maximize their impact with every hour they devote to pro bono clients, such as Mr. Hill. Proskauer’s Pro Bono Initiative Committee brings together lawyers from every Proskauer office and every legal department, drawing from all levels of the organization to cultivate the pro bono spirit among lawyers and other staff.
Proskauer’s Appellate Group includes former U.S. Supreme Court clerks, chiefs of appeals from U.S. Attorney's offices, and many other lawyers who have argued before appellate panels across the country. The group is routinely involved in providing counsel at all stages of litigation, researching and drafting appellate briefs, and preparing for and conducting oral argument.