Judge James S. Gwin
United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
In his 20 years on the federal bench, Judge James Gwin has been one of the most innovative judges in the country in his approach to sentencing. In his criminal cases, Judge Gwin adopted a practice of polling juries for their sentencing recommendations and comparing those with the sentences recommended by the federal sentencing guidelines. The results were striking--jurors who had heard the case and convicted the defendant recommended sentences that were, on average, dramatically lower than the guidelines recommend. In 2010, Judge Gwin published an article in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, arguing that his study showed that federal sentencing guidelines were out of line with community values about just punishment. More recently, Judge Gwin began basing his own sentencing decisions, in part, on the recommendations of the jurors, an innovative approach virtually unheard of in American criminal sentencing. His novel approach was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 2016. Drawing on his 20 years of sentencing criminal defendants under the federal sentencing guidelines, as well as his extensive research into this area, Judge Gwin will address the critical question of whether the federal sentencing guidelines lead to just punishment.