Document Type



Presented at the 4th Inter-University Graduate Student Conference at Cornell Law School, March 2008.


The United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines, in use since 1987, was set up to reduce disparity in sentencing and its application was made mandatory. Though there are a few who are in favor of the guidelines, the guidelines as mandatory have been severely criticized and many have called for their abolition. Consequently, in the twin cases of United States v. Booker and United States v. Fanfan (2005) 125 S.Ct. 738, the US Supreme Court delivered judgment that had the effect of making the guidelines discretionary.

While the Nigerian legal system shares a Common Law background with the United States, Nigeria does not have a rigid system of Federal Sentencing Guidelines. She has been able to avoid much of the criticisms of the US Sentencing Guidelines. This paper examines the US Sentencing Guidelines and answers the question of whether they have served their purpose, takes a close look at the arguments in favor of and in opposition to the guidelines, analyzes the Booker/Fanfan decision and answers the question, Is making the guidelines discretionary the much needed solution to end the various criticisms it has suffered or is there more that can be done? The paper also analyzes the most recent US decision in United States v. Gall (2007)128 S.Ct. 586 and offers recommendations on how the United States can learn from the practice in Nigeria and avoid the many criticisms of its sentencing guidelines.

Date of Authorship for this Version

May 2008


Federal sentencing guidelines, Nigeria