Brian Michael Gall v. United States

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Brian Michael Gall v. United States presents a question to the U.S. Supreme Court about the Sentencing Guidelines:[1]

  • Absent special circumstances, is it reasonable for a federal district court judge to sentence a defendant to a term below the federal sentencing guidelines range?

In this case the Sentencing Guidelines specified a prison sentence of 30–37 months for a conspiracy to distribute the drug ecstasy, but the defendant received no prison time and only 36 months probation and a fine. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed that sentence in holding that an extraordinary reduction from the guidelines required "extraordinary circumstances," but the U.S. Supreme Court then granted cert.

The 5-4 majority that upheld application of the Sentencing Guidelines on an advisory basis is no longer intact. Chief Justice John Roberts has replaced William Rehnquist and Justice Sam Alito has replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Both Rehnquist and O'Connor were part of the 5-Justice majority, and the combination of their replacement and the grant of cert. here suggests that the Court may greatly diminish the authority of the Sentencing Guidelines.


  1. Gall v. U.S., No. 06-7949. Certiorari granted June 11, 2007. Ruling below: 446 F.3d 884 (8th Cir. 2006).