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Cornwall judge confirmed as chair of U.S. sentencing commission

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chief United States District Judge William K. Sessions III of Cornwall was confirmed today by the Senate as chair of the United States Sentencing Commission. Sessions had been nominated for this post by President Barack Obama on April 20, 2009.

Sessions said, “I am honored to have been nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as chair of the commission. This is a particularly exciting time because the commission is holding a series of regional public hearings throughout the nation to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act and the establishment of the commission. These hearings allow commissioners to hear directly from judges, practitioners, academics and other individuals about their experiences with, and suggestions regarding, federal sentencing policy.”

Sessions has served as a vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission since November 1999 when he was appointed to that post by President Clinton. Sessions was re-appointed for a second term by President Bush in December 2003. He has served as a chief district court judge for the District of Vermont since July 2002, having served as a district court judge since 1995 when he was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton. From 1978-1995, he was a partner with the Middlebury firm of Sessions, Keiner, Dumont & Barnes.

Sessions previously served in the Office of the Public Defender for Addison County, as a professor at the Vermont Law School, and as an officer in the United States Army. He served on the Judicial Branch Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 2002-2007, and currently serves as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States and on the Second Circuit Judicial Council. Sessions received a B.A. degree from Middlebury College and a J.D. degree from the George Washington School of Law.

The United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was established in 1984 to develop a national sentencing strategy for the federal courts. The resulting guidelines, which went into effect Nov. 1, 1987, structure federal courts’ sentencing discretion to ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences. The Sentencing Commission is composed of seven voting members and two non-voting ex officio members. The other voting members of the Sentencing Commission are Judge Ruben Castillo of the Northern District of Illinois (vice chair); William B. Carr Jr. of Pennsylvania (vice chair); Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa of the Southern District of Texas; Commissioner Beryl A. Howell of Washington, D.C.; and Commissioner Dabney L. Friedrich of Virginia.

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