Circuit Vacates Child Pornography Sentence For Second Time, Citing District Court’s Failure to Follow Circuit’s Mandate
On June 19, 2018, in a split decision in United States v. Sawyer, No. 15-2276 (Jacobs, Pooler, Crawford) the Circuit issued a firm rebuke of a District Court judge who – per the Circuit’s mandate – reduced the defendant’s sentence on remand, but did so without curing certain deficiencies the Circuit had identified as making the sentence substantively unreasonable. The majority opinion makes clear that when the Circuit issues a mandate on remand, the district court is not at liberty to ignore it – even if the district court can achieve the same outcome (here, a reduced sentence) through different means. As the dissent (Jacobs, J.) observes, however, the holding yields the anomalous result whereby the District Court may have remedied the substantive unreasonableness of the initial sentence on remand, but because it did so for the wrong reasons – i.e., by expressly declining to link the reduction to the two variables identified in the mandate – the sentence could not stand.