Congress Blewett by Not Explicitly Making the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 Retroactive

Cockroft, Andrew | January 1, 2017

In 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was the first Circuit Court to retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. The Fair Sentencing Act sought to end the discriminatory effects of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and its treatment of one gram of crack cocaine as the equivalent to one hundred grams of powder cocaine. The Fair Sentencing Act was meant to remedy the injustices brought about by the infamous 100:1 ratio in crack-cocaine and powder cocaine minimum sentencing. Despite this purpose, the Fair Sentencing Act does not contain language that explicitly and unequivocally requires that the new mandatory minimums be applied retroactively. Thus, a narrow reading of the Fair Sentencing Act would mean that individuals sentenced under mandatory minimums that the law acknowledged were, at the very least, perpetuating a racially discriminatory system, would have to serve out those sentences. The Sixth Circuit in Blewett v. United States held that a reading of the Fair Sentencing Act that did not allow for retroactive application of the more lenient and less dubious mandatory minimums created equal protection concerns that mandated reading the text to allow for retroactive application. Although the original Blewett panel decision has been heavily criticized, vacated, and eventually overturned en banc, this Comment argues that the original Blewett panel was correct in holding that equal protection requires reading the text of the Fair Sentencing Act to allow for retroactive application.