Gall v. United States Case Brief

Facts of the Case

“Petitioner Gall joined an ongoing enterprise distributing the controlled substance “ecstasy” while in college, but withdrew from the conspiracy after seven months. Since withdrawing, he ceased selling illegal drugs, ceased using illegal drugs and worked steadily since graduation. Three and a half years after withdrawing from the conspiracy, Gall pleaded guilty to his participation in conspiring to distribute ecstacy. A presentence report recommended a sentence of 30 to 37 months in prison, but a federal district court sentenced Gall to 36 months’ probation, finding that probation reflected the seriousness of his offense and that imprisonment was unnecessary because his voluntary withdrawal from the conspiracy and post-offense conduct showed that he would not return to criminal behavior and was not a danger to society. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed on the ground that a sentence outside the Federal Sentencing Guidelines range must be supported by extraordinary circumstances. The court characterized the difference between the sentence of probation and the bottom of petitioner’s advisory Guidelines range of 30 months as “extraordinary,” and it held that the variance was not supported by extraordinary circumstances.”


In a securities fraud action, must plaintiffs prove that the alleged fraud caused a drop in stock prices in order to get class certification?


The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, reversed the appellate court and held that, under Booker , federal courts have the authority to set any reasonable sentence as long as they explain their reasoning. The Court made clear that Booker had removed the Guidelines from their earlier status as the primary determinate of a defendant’s punishment, reaffirming the Guidelines’ advisory status. The opinion was penned by Justice Stevens, with Justices David Souter and Antonin Scalia filing opinions concurring in the judgment. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were the sole dissenters.

Case Information

Citation: 552 US 38 (2007)
Granted: Jun 11, 2007
Argued: Oct 2, 2007
Decided: Dec 10, 2007
Case Brief: 2007