United States v. Ministro-Tapia, No. 05-5101-CR., 2006 WL 3411410 (2d Cir. Nov. 28, 2006) (found here)
A loss for a defendant but a win for the "parsimony clause" of 18 U.S.C. 3553(a).
As all defense counsel know, 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)'s "parsiomony clause" provides that disrict courts are required to "impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the purposes" of sentencing set forth in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)(2). Ministro-Tapia challenged the district court's compliance with this statutory directive in imposing sentence, but the Second Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed by the district court. In doing so, however, the Second Circuit set forth its views as to the operation of the "parsimony clause." Specifically, the Second Circuit found that "if a district court were explicitly to conclude that two sentences equally served the statutory purpose of 3553(a), it could not, consistent with the parsimony clause, impose the higher."
It is possible that the Second Circuit's decision may require district courts imposing sentences to determine not only the advisory Guidelines sentence but also whether there exists a non-Guidelines sentence that is sufficient to accomplish the sentencing goals that an advisory Guidelines sentence would. And, if so, to impose that non-Guidelines sentence. It is unlikely, however, that sentencing courts are now required to determine two potential sentences before imposing sentence -- an advisory Guidelines sentence and a non-Guidelines sentence. But, for defense counsel seeking non-Guidelines sentences, Ministro-Tapia provides strong support for the argument that the "parsimony clause" is significant, and that sentencing courts cannot ignore its significance. Indeed, it seems that Ministro-Tapia puts to rest any doubt concerning the question of whether or not the Guidelines are presumptively reasonable in the Second Circuit. And, in any event, Ministro-Tapia is arguably a directive to sentencing courts in the Second Circuit to impose the shortest sentence necessary to achieve the sentencing goals set forth in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a).