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Davis v. United States Sentencing Comm'n

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 11, 2014

BRIAN A. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSION, Defendant

For Brian Davis, Plaintiff: Stephen A. Fogdall, LEAD ATTORNEY, SCHNADER HARRISON SEGAL & LEWIS LLP, Philadelphia , PA.

Charles Edward Mcintyre, Intervenor Plaintiff, Pro se, San Pedro , CA.

For United States Sentencing Commission, Defendant: Alan R. Burch, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington , DC.

Page 97

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.

Congress and the United States Sentencing Commission have engaged in a lengthy and ongoing dialogue about the proper penalties for offenses involving crack and powder cocaine. In 1995, the Commission proposed jettisoning any differential treatment of the two, but Congress expressly rejected this proposal several months later in the passage of Public Law 104-38. Plaintiff Brian Davis, who is serving a 30-year sentence for crack-related crimes, has brought this action requesting the Court to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Commission to reinstate the 1:1 ratio it proposed in 1995. In moving to dismiss the case, the Commission argues that mandamus cannot be proper here where Public Law 104-38 is not unconstitutional. The Court agrees and will grant the Motion.

I. Background

A. Statutory Background

Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 as a major volley in the highly publicized " War on Drugs." As part of its mission to " improve enforcement of Federal drug laws," Congress amended the penalties

Page 98

in the Controlled Substances Act for offenses involving powder and crack cocaine. See Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, Pub. L. No. 99-570, intro., 100 Stat. 3207. The amendments mandated a five-year minimum sentence for, inter alia, distributing 500 grams of powder or 5 grams of crack cocaine, and a ten-year minimum for 5 kilograms of powder or 50 grams of crack, thus establishing a 100:1 sentencing ratio for powder to crack. See id. § 1002.

In response to growing concerns about the effects of this ratio in the early 1990s, Congress directed the Sentencing Commission to research the policy's impact and submit a report of its findings. See U.S. Sentencing Commission, Special Report to Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy at iii (1995). The report, submitted in February 1995, concluded that " [r]esearch and public policy may support somewhat higher penalties for crack versus powder cocaine, but a 100-to-1 quantity ratio cannot be recommended." Id. at xiv. On May 1, 1995, consistent with that report, the Commission submitted to Congress proposed amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines that would establish a 1:1 ratio for penalties between crack and powder offenses.

Congress did not agree. bye passing Public Law 104-38, it expressly rejected the Commission's proposed 1:1 ratio. At the same time, Congress charged the Commission with submitting new recommendations reducing the 100:1 disparity while keeping the sentences imposed for crack cocaine generally higher than those for powder cocaine. See Act of Oct. 30, 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-38, 109 Stat. 334. The Commission submitted more Special Reports concerning cocaine sentencing over the ensuing years, each time recommending a reduction in the ratio. Eventually, in 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which adjusted the ratio to 18:1. See Pub. L. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372.

B. Factual and Procedural Background

In 1993, Plaintiff Brian Davis was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of crack and powder cocaine, and the trial court imposed a life sentence. See Davis v. U.S. Sent. Comm'n, 716 F.3d 660, 662, 405 U.S.App.D.C. 93 (D.C. Cir. 2013). Subsequent amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines lowered base offense levels for crimes involving certain amounts of crack, but not the amount for which Davis was responsible. See id. Regardless, " [i]n 2008, the district court reduced his sentence from life to 360 months based on an unrelated amendment to the Guidelines." Id.

Over the years, Davis has filed assorted motions and suits in an attempt to vacate or lower his sentence, but with no success. For instance, in 2001, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his civil-rights actions and characterized his appeal as " frivolous." Davis v. King, 252 F.3d 1357 at *1 (5th Cir. 2001). Similarly, the D.C. Circuit affirmed a dismissal of his suit " challenging the constitutionality of Congress's perpetuation of the 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine." Davis v. U.S. Congress, 101 F.App'x 838 at *1 (D.C. Cir. 2004). The court held that habeas corpus was the exclusive remedy for a federal prisoner bringing a claim that would have a " ...


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