[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 161 (Wednesday, August 20, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 49380-49381]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-19765]


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UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSION


Possible Formation of Tribal Issues Advisory Group

AGENCY: United States Sentencing Commission.

ACTION: Request for public comment on possible formation of Tribal 
Issues Advisory Group.

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SUMMARY: The Commission is interested in forming a new Tribal Issues 
Advisory Group, on an ad hoc or continuing basis, or establishing other 
means to study issues that have been raised in recent years related to 
the operation of the federal sentencing guidelines in Indian Country 
and areas that have significant American Indian population. Therefore, 
the Commission hereby requests comment on the merits of forming such a 
group, including comment on the scope, duration, and potential 
membership of any such advisory group.

DATES: Public comment should be received on or before October 20, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be sent to the Commission by electronic mail 
or regular mail. The email address is pubaffairs@ussc.gov. The regular 
mail address is United States Sentencing Commission, One Columbus 
Circle NE., Suite 2-500, South Lobby, Washington, DC 20002-8002, 
Attention: Public Affairs--Tribal Issues Comment.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeanne Doherty, Public Affairs 
Officer, 202-502-4502, jdoherty@ussc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The United States Sentencing Commission is 
an independent agency in the judicial branch of the United States 
Government. The Commission promulgates sentencing guidelines and

[[Page 49381]]

policy statements for federal sentencing courts pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 
994(a). The Commission also periodically reviews and revises previously 
promulgated guidelines pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(o) and submits 
guideline amendments to the Congress not later than the first day of 
May each year pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(p). Under 28 U.S.C. 995 and 
Rule 5.4 of the Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure, the 
Commission may create standing or ad hoc advisory groups to facilitate 
formal and informal input to the Commission. Upon creating an advisory 
group, the Commission may prescribe the policies regarding the purpose, 
membership, and operation of the group as the Commission deems 
necessary or appropriate.
    In 2002, the Commission established the Native American Advisory 
Group (NAAG) with the purpose of considering ``any viable methods to 
improve the operation of the federal sentencing guidelines in their 
application to Native Americans under the Major Crimes Act.'' The NAAG 
was convened as an ad hoc group tasked with writing an interim and a 
final report. The membership of the advisory group was diverse in terms 
of geography, tribal affiliation, and professional background, and 
included federal judges, Assistant United States Attorneys, a United 
States Probation Officer, an Assistant Federal Public Defender, a 
Victim/Witness specialist, private legal practitioners, academics, and 
representatives from the Department of Justice, the Department of 
Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the United States Commission on 
Civil Rights, and the National Indian Gaming Commission.
    The Final Report issued by the group in 2003 made specific 
recommendations on offenses that had a significant percentage of 
American Indian offenders (manslaughter, sexual abuse, aggravated 
assault, and the use of alcohol as an aggravating factor), and it 
encouraged the Commission to continue tribal involvement in the 
development of federal sentencing policy. (The 2003 Report of the NAAG 
may be accessed through the Commission's Web site at www.ussc.gov.) For 
the Commission's amendments in response to this report, see USSG App. 
C, Amends. 652, 663.
    Since the NAAG issued its final report, new issues and concerns 
have arisen involving American Indian defendants and victims, and there 
have been important changes in tribal criminal jurisdiction. For 
example, in 2010, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-
211) was enacted to address high rates of violent crime in Indian 
Country by improving criminal justice funding and infrastructure in 
tribal government, and expanding the sentencing authority of tribal 
court systems. In 2013, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act 
of 2013 (Pub. L. 113-4) was enacted to expand the criminal jurisdiction 
of tribes to prosecute, sentence, and convict Indians and non-Indians 
who assault Indian spouses or dating partners or violate a protection 
order in Indian Country. It also established new assault offenses and 
enhanced existing assault offenses. Both Acts increased criminal 
jurisdiction for tribal courts, but also required more robust court 
procedures and provided more procedural protections for defendants. For 
the Commission's response to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization 
Act of 2013, see Amendment 2 of the amendments submitted to Congress on 
April 30, 2014, 79 FR 25996 (May 6, 2014).
    Furthermore, in 2009 and 2010, the Commission held a series of 
regional public hearings regarding federal sentencing policy to 
coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act. At 
regional hearings in Denver and Phoenix, the Commission heard testimony 
on Indian Country issues. The testimony expressed concern about the 
perception in tribal communities that American Indian offenders 
prosecuted federally receive more severe sentences than other offenders 
prosecuted at the state level, the disparity in the application of the 
federal sentencing guidelines on American Indians in Indian Country, 
and how tribal court convictions are taken into account for purposes of 
sentencing and risk assessment, among other uses. More recently, the 
Commission received written submissions and testimony during the public 
comment period and public hearings on the amendments in response to the 
Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, that expressed the 
same concerns heard in the testimony at the regional hearings, but also 
addressed additional matters for consideration, such as ensuring 
accountability for Indian and non-Indian offenders who victimize 
American Indians, the need to better acknowledge tribal court 
protection orders in the guidelines, and the importance of consultation 
with tribal communities on sentencing issues that affect them. (The 
testimony and written submissions are available through the 
Commission's Web site at www.ussc.gov.)
    In 2014, the Commission received a letter from the United States 
Attorneys who make up the Native American Issues Subcommittee and the 
Racial Disparities Working Group of the Attorney General's Advisory 
Group at the Department of Justice. (The letter is available through 
the Commission's Web site at www.ussc.gov.) The letter urged the 
Commission to consider ``forming a new American Indian Sentencing 
Advisory Group to study whether American Indian defendants in federal 
court face disparities in sentencing.'' It noted that since the NAAG 
Report of 2003, the issue of potential sentencing disparities has 
remained a subject of great debate, citing academic research and 
concerns heard from tribal leaders and members of the Federal 
Judiciary. The letter also explained that because the NAAG's work was 
completed prior to the United States Supreme Court decision in United 
States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), further review is appropriate.
    In light of this, the Commission is considering whether to form a 
new Tribal Issues Advisory Group, on an ad hoc or continuing basis, or 
establishing other means to study the issues that have been raised in 
recent years. Therefore, the Commission hereby requests comment on the 
merits of forming such a group, including comment on the scope, 
duration, and potential membership of any such advisory group.
    Public comment should be sent to the Commission as indicated in the 
ADDRESSES section above.

    Authority: 28 U.S.C. 994(a), (o), (p), 995; USSC Rules of 
Practice and Procedure 5.2, 5.4.

Patti B. Saris,
Chair.
[FR Doc. 2014-19765 Filed 8-19-14; 8:45 am]
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