Claiborne v. United States

PETITIONER: Mario Claiborne
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 06-5618
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 551 US 87 (2007)
GRANTED: Nov 03, 2006
ARGUED: Feb 20, 2007
DECIDED: Jun 04, 2007

Michael Dwyer - on behalf of Petitioner
Michael R. Dreeben - on behalf of Respondent

Facts of the case

Mario Claiborne pleaded guilty to two drug-related charges. A District Court determined that according to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines the charges should carry a minimum sentence of 37 months in prison. However, the District Court decided to reduce Claiborne's sentence to 15 months based on factors enumerated in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), including the defendant's young age, clean record, and improbability of committing similar crimes in the future. The government appealed the sentence to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, claiming that it should be rejected unless "extraordinary circumstances" were found to justify the "extraordinary reduction." Claiborne argued that because the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Booker had declared the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to be merely advisory, courts could not declare a sentence unreasonable based on variance from the Guidelines. The Eighth Circuit ruled that the 15-month sentence was unreasonable because the advised 37-month minimum in the Guidelines already took into account the circumstances that the District Court claimed were extraordinary.


1) Was the District Court's sentence reasonable, even though it fell below the advised minimum in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines? 2) Does the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Booker allow a court to require extraordinary circumstances to justify a sentence which constitutes a substantial variance from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

Media for Claiborne v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 20, 2007 in Claiborne v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 04, 2007 in Claiborne v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

In case No. 06-5618, Claiborne v. United States, the Court today has issued a Per Curiam statement vacating the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has moved in light of petitioner’s death.