A tendency towards more bureaucracy is notable in various public and private American institutions in recent times. The courts have not been immune to this trend. Perhaps the most interesting and almost certainly the most consequential rise of bureaucracy over the courts in the past quarter century has been the transfer of power and discretion over criminal sentencing from federal judges to a bureaucratic sentencing commission. If only as a dramatic instance of growing regulatory power at the expense of the judiciary, it is worth considering how this happened, why it happened, what the legal consequences for the criminal justice system have been, and what are the social circumstances that help account for what happened.

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