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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  October 20, 2015 1:30am-3:01am EDT

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written by tony mauro who has been covering for 30 years now. he did a summary of each of the 12 cases. it will help you with the as we close here, just in quick summary, why should someone care about the landmark case as being one of them the slaughterhouse cases? michael: for the same reason they should care about re-construction. one of the areas that americans have a blank spot in their historical memory. the area that defines the meaning of the civil war. the slaughterhouse cases were in part about defining the meaning of the civil war. host: you would say, paul clement? paul: i counted six of the cases left in the series that are major constitutional cases that involve not action by the federal government but by action by the state governments. the reason those are constitutional questions, the reason that when the state government does something to you, you don't like it, you can take it all the time to the united states supreme court is the 14th amendment.
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it is the fact that cruikshank is interpreting that case. host: thanks for adding your scholarship and experience to our discussion tonight. thanks for our viewers for being involved in the landmarks case. we'll see you next week. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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>> our original series landmark casing continues next monday with a look at lochner versus new york. the court rules that a new york labor law interfered with the 14th amendment right of businesses and employees to enter into contracts by limiting the number of hours a bakery worker can be required to work. the justices declared that the law was not justified as a legitimate exercise of police powers to protect health and safety. that's live next monday at 9:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. you can learn more about c-span's landmark cases series which explores the human stories and constitutional dramas behind some of the supreme courts most significant decisions by going
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to from the web site, you can find c-span's landmark cases book features background, highlights, and a legal impact of each case written by veteran court and published by c-span in cooperation with cq press. landmark cases is available for $8.95 plus ships. >> we spoke with patrick leahy about the cases. that is followed by a judiciary hearing on prison sentencing laws. later, road to the white house coverage. >> senator patrick leahy, thank you for giving us some time.
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i would like to start and have you talk about at the role of the supreme court in society today. k giving us some time. i would like to start and have you talk about at the role of court in society today. >> the supreme court is everything in america. we have three branches. the president and the court. soir decisions can affect much. i mean they decided a presidential election. before the ballots were all counted. bush versus gore, they changed dramatically the way we finance political elections. they are obviously you've had a of effect when just
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they basically gutted voting rights act and some states took that as a chance to disenfranchise a lot of people. far better or worse they that affect the average person far more than what we might do in individual acts of congress. continuing's a debate. perhaps it is one that has gotten louder about whether or not the supreme court works at a level that wasn't intended bit founders. on that?our position leahy: some of the members say we must stick to what the founders said. they tend to make that a flexible role depending on what it goes with their own feelings. i think it is a -- it can be a
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very activist court. perhaps that was foreshadowed with marbury versus madison. had been. that's been both good and bad. they basically upheld segregation at one point. then they realized what a yearse they made and later ruled it illegal. the -- they've done some things. ludwig versus virginia. it was only a few decades ago it was illegal for a man, woman of races to be married. in virginia. arrested for that. it is inconceivable to america the case anymore. that's because of the supreme court made it very clear you do that.
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a majorand one vote was change. wade has has -- we debated abortion for years in country. the supreme court decides the issue in roe versus wade. very activisteen and i mention bush versus gore. electionded that before all of the ballots were counted. these -- i wanttous have a supreme court. court thata supreme is not ideologically polarized, but it is more reflective of the country. and being reflective of the and being first and foremost reflective of the laws of the country. host: let's stay with that. the people who were critical say
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it is anti-democratic that nine to decide something or overrule something that the representative branch of has decided. is it anti-democratic when they look at and review the laws that you have written? leahy: in some of the ways it is. take the voting rights act. ago.was passed decades it was renewed just a few years hundreds hundreds and hearings.f debate and the almost every member of the house representatives, both voted for it. they past virtually unanimously states senate. again republicans and democrats. into law with great pleasure. said by ays republican president. this is after weeks and months hundreds of hours
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of testimony, hearings and so forth. hearing in the supreme court and one of the the very cavalier ways. they haven't looked at this one. he had heard an hour's worth of argument. decision, they overroad it. there was no question that when totally against what the american people wanted. a small subset of the american people that wanted it. there were laws passed so some couldn't vote.
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host: you are the most senior democrat on the committee. you have chaired the panel in past. would you explain what the role of the senate judiciary vis-a-vis theis supreme court? senator leahy: we need to be careful. can i read what i said during the first televised hearings. sandra day o'connor. i had to choose one moment to explain the most about the way the american worked itgovernment would probably be the moment when we choose the justice of the supreme court. it is a moment when the interest of all three branches of government join. guardianship of the constitution has to be conveyed. that we have to stand there and man or woman going of our guardian
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constitution? 100 realize in the set as senators, we have to make a decision for 300 million americans. the decision we make on a supreme court justice, beyond the time most of us will serve. lifetime appointments in the supreme court. make a mistake, you don't get to do a do over. you look for? senator leahy: i'm not as concerned about their philosophy, republican, or but will they treat all litigants equally? will they really adhere to the constitution? will they show respect for the laws that have been passed? some who i voted
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against. was somniated to the supreme court. read a i heard and number of the things about the cases.ution and the then in his testimony under oath, he's taking what's going an entirely different position. anyked him, are you having confirmation conversion? i voted against him, not because some ofto disagree to the things he had written or said, but the inconsistency of bothered me greatly. host: i'm going to dive into cases we'respecific looking at in the landmark series. before you came to the senate, a prosecutor. two of the cases have to do with rights that would have affected who were in the judicial system. one of those is the famous miranda case. the other is m. a.p. and the decision and law. about both of
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those in the context of your work as a prosecutor and how they changed the process? senator leahy: it was very interesting. m.a.p. and miranda came down the time i become a prosecutor. prosecutor and chief law enforcement officer for about a quarter of the state population.s years old. i had been practicing law for years.o or three i was asked on friday if i would take over the job on monday. they had all kinds of problems in the states attorney office. he was leaving. took it over. studies.e cram i realize the police had not been adviced. i held seminars most evenings on own time. i would bring in police officers train them.
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i still have retired police officers that come up to them miranda cardhe with my name on it. at my own printed up expense. i also try to point out to them ruleshelp follow in the of m.a.p. if you have a-- andf you do the wrong thing seizing something is going to be excluded or following the rules of miranda, if you don't warn people of their rights, you cannot use a confession that they make. rules are here to protect you as well the person you are arresting. them.llow if you are -- if you got a good case, you are going to have it no matter what. make sure -- make sure the respected.ghts are because i also knew for my own defending cases before, sometimes you get the wrong person. i want to show you respect in the rights all the way along.
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time, it was very controversial. what do you mean we have to read accused, we have here is that somebody once said. in fact, a former attorney thatal once used expression. the guilty accused. we had to tell them their rights. of course you did. way,se think of it this what if you were arrested for something? you may think, look, they got the wrong guy. wouldn't you want to know what your rights are? that sunk in pretty heavily. cases were being thrown out because they weren't being followed, none of my cases were out.n police may grumble, but they followed the rules. is inconceivable sort of in my state to not follow those rules. it is just ingrained. host: in the case of map, the
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has had more and certainly into the age of people of treasurings terrorism against the united states. leahy: we have a nation of laws. something likeve an exclusionary rules. we'll follow the rules. not the one time. we have to ill mother the rules. very easy and treacherous to go down. i have members of the senate laden'sma bin son-in-law was captured. be prosecuted in
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new york. in new york city. saying it was terrible. you can't have them come there. that, they read him his rights. they told him that. to that is we are a nation that believes in laws. want to show that example to the rest of the world? frankly, if you were a prosecutor in new york city and laden'sosama bin son-in-law being charged, and the evidenceof against him whether he con fezzed or not, you would do anything tonight one prosecuting that case. of course, he was convicted. we also sent the signal to the rest of the world that we follow the rule of law. why i worry about something like guantanamo. the's not the image of
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united states we want to give. ultimately, it plays against us. you can always find a case, by followingere the rules somebody might get something. it happens so rarely. but if you don't follow the that's what you do, then us get away. we are all hurt by it. host: another area in the from map has precedent is on warrantless wiretapping. were so involved in privacy issues and digital and internet issues. map decision affect the governments interest and there?safety interest senator leahy: that's a good question. we've gone through some great on this. we've just had another one on how we -- what we are allowed to
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get. becomes more and more difficult. with the way we communicate today. it is not -- when i was a a warrant, you get and get eclipsed to a telephone somewhere. here with electronic devices and all, you might not be able to put the idea that we have a blanket sweep from all of us. in the long run, that's going to hurt us. that's not going to make us safer. getting back to the rules, the example that you used is this: your desk papers in at home, you fully expect that want to come into your home and look at those papers. they are going to have to get a warrant. and look at them. now if you are holding it -- files in the cloud and you've got it somewhere on or communicating like that, shouldn't they have to follow the same rules? it is your privacy we're talking about. everybody said we need this to be safer.
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especially since 9/11. we had all of the information attack9/11 to stop that from happening. we just didn't take the had andion they appropriately had and connect the dots. if you collect everything, in nothing., you have learn to do better analysis of it. had at the time very few this material at who could speak the languages of wiretaps.were in the we learned from that. but it doesn't make us less safe to follow the rules of law. becauseange subjects you referenced earlier the voting rights act. one of the case we've chosen for versus carr. baker the most significant
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case during the tenure on the court. do you agree? if so, why? leahy: i do. i do. i was in law school at the time in georgetown. about it. us talking toaid we all have a right vote. i grew up in vermont. assumed that. i came down here, and i realized that way.always work the way youzed that could have things where you dis proportionate to voting. said no. we're americans. americans can vote and americans be allowed to vote. host: the impact of it over the court of time has been what? senator leahy: i think it has much in thenged
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united states. i think one of the impacts is trying to erode it. you have to ask why. justiceu mention chief warren. several of the cases are from his tenure. when you look back at warren period, haas his significance on court's history? the facteahy: i think unanimousied to get a court. there was going to be a split court. they kept it going a couple of thes win -- years, i think
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court complexity changed. then they had it unanimous. that president eisenhower would have felt the need to enforce hadn't been unanimous supreme court. society law schools invited the supreme court for theh, and they came on insistent they don't have a head table. they want to sit at tables with students.e to sit withi got hugo black. been aa man who had segregationist. the south.rom he joined in these historic things. he made it very clear to the students if we're going to do
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thishing significant in country, it is going to have to done unanimously. otherwise people are going to isstion what the court doing. now you know and i know that's not always going to happen. i think the warren court tried very hard to do that. it unanimous. and i think when you see some of cases, you see some of the cases,dissents in some it is because you are justices that know why we don't work harder to make this unanimous. veryversus gore is very, hard for people to agree to a split court. united, these, were
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cases. shelby county. notes thate of the i'm going over some of these things. citizens united split the hist just stevens read dissent from the bench. remember justice stevens was a nominee.n he -- president ford dominated him. very strongly about this. one of the reasons was people don't trust it. it as a purely political decision. theink it is damaged
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supreme court. eightwe have about minutes left. four of cases that we have theen have to deal with 14th amendment. coincidental or has the court taken on cases? senator leahy: that's interesting. 114 years since part of the second founding. why do you call it that? leahy: well, we had the founding fathers. of amendmentsies came through, it is like the united states become more aware more awarey are and of the fact slavery ending and had to treat all people the same. know and i know having said at that time, it look a
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long, long time. places in the country it is still going on. but it was some of the second founding. theas a second coming of united states. why they picked so many in that really don't know. but i do know that even among claim to be strict constructionist, they've gone the reservation. citizens united say that corporations of citizens -- i mean the absurdity. you push that to what it means. electedeisenhower was president. elect general electric? citizensabsurd as united. it means just a handful of ofple with huge amounts money can influence what all of americans do.
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cases youof the other preferred to as an notorious era in american history. we've chosen the lochner case. why did you call that a time in american history? senator leahy: well, there's a toe here we're not going look at everybody in the country. at onlying to look well the wealthy and the connected. we don't have to care about the others. host: the lochner era was about years long. senator leahy: then you have the threat from franklin roosevelt. i have to assume that president would neverew it happen. they expressed that time.
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the supreme court reads the papers. then they started changing. there was the sense that we all come from the privileged class. i mean we've got to take care of ours. i thought that if you were a justice or u.s. senator that you were supposed to take care of everybody. obviously you lochner they were not. that's a distinct improvement from that. ultimately -- excuse me. it ultimately showed the same members of the supreme court. they said we can't do anything but this. minute.ught wait a we may actually get replace and the court. they try to say you mean those ideas of protecting employees? of course they are okay. host: we have just about five minutes left. ourof the cases that is on
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list was actually youngstown steel. harry truman was sent to rights for his intention of seizing the mills. there's a big debate over executive power right now. i wonder what you balances of making xecutive power. can go backy: you to the supreme court on the checks and balances. marburygo back to versus madison. it is well established. executiveent has used power. the easy answer is if congress pass a law. it, there's been criticism of obama using executive power in immigration. senate two yeared ago passed
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region on comprehensive immigration bill. the president at this passed the house also and signed into law. the president would not be doing executive power. a few in the tea party told the house they couldn't bring it up. even though it probably would have passed. brought up. it has to be frustrating to a president. i still have to help run the country. executivehe authority. again any time a president oversteps his authority, then the congress can pass a law. haven't seen the congress -- the congress has talked about it a lot. those of the 40 or 50 that seem to be running for president this year will talk about that. i don't see passing a law to the president did. host: in our final two or three
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left, let's we have go macro again. overandering if you look the arc of the court that you've studied over the year and worked capitolyour role on hill, what's the greatest periods of the court's history? afterrly days or sometime that? senator leahy: i think you can times whenfferent they've -- i mention marbury versus madison. i'm sure that was some of the thought what in the heck are they doing? yet it is established the is an equal power. then you see things like dred scott. was a terrible decision. years. us for so it ebbs and flows. are talking about lochner and others. there was some bad parts. then when individual rights were
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brought up during the war in elsewhere, that was a very good movement. we sat and talked about one and one vote. a very, very good vote. a woman's right to choose, i good one.very they would disagree. i think now we're going into a area whereconcerned being in to vote is the shelby case. now this is being diminished greatly. that, if it continues, this country is going to be badly damaged by it allowing untraveled amounts of money to elections. that's going to hurt us. that's going to put us back to age where only the wealthy and only certain individuals have a power in the country person and one vote having a real substance.
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about aalso bring cynicism and a disillusionment among voters. country will suffer by that. host: right now the supreme the congress is suffering in public approval ratings. what do you see is the genesis that? senator leahy: it is suffering because people are not reflective on what they think. it is a huge amount of frustration. i hear it from voters. up to all of the money? how do we stand up to the fact makes decisions that just totally ignore what passed. has how do we actually have a voice? complex society -- homogeneousre not a county. all kinds of backgrounds in where we live and what our
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agegrounds are racially and and education. they are seeing it as not being country andf the this great melting pot to use the older expression. they say it is not reflecting. it is reflecting only a certain few.leged unless we get away for that, the actions of the congress and the actions of the supreme court are thegoing to be respected by >> about half a million migrants and refugees across the mediterranean to europe so far in 2015, with this many as 50% from syria. the commission on security and cooperation in europe holds a hearing live at 2:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3. then, a house subcommittee looks set drug abuse in the united states, a number of bills
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dealing with prescription opioids pending before caucus, live at 4:00 p.m. eastern also on c-span3. c-span has your coverage of the road to white house 2016, where you will find the candidates, the speeches, the debates, and most important, your questions. this year, we are taking a road to white house coverage to classrooms across the country, giving students the opportunity to discuss what important issues they want to hear the most from the candidates. andow c-span student cam wrote to the white house coverage on tv, the radio, and online at next a senate judiciary hearing on pending legislation
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and changing mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenders. deputy attorney general sally eight -- yates and others. this is three hours. good afternoon, everybody. the judiciary committee will hold a hearing on an important bill, sentencing reform correction act. i am pleased to introduce this broadalong with a group of colleagues, durban, graham, shuman, ranking member
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scott, and we been joinedcently by others. it is a truly landmark peace of legislation as a result of months of hard work, and thoughtful deliberation. it has been called the most significant criminal justice reform bill in a generation. i am pleased to say this bill has formed the basis of for a deal in the house by chairman goodlatte and ranking member conyers. further, president obama has stated that -- has asked congress to send him a bill this year, and if we did so, he would sign it. -- i'm kind that we have a bipartisan approach. i am pleased that such a large set of organizations from across
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the political spectrum have endorsed this though. at this time, i would like to introduce into the record letters of support from major chiefs association, a group of 41 interfaith community organizations, the drug policy alliance, american bar h industries,koc the as is usually prosecuting attorneys, the american federation of government employees, and faith and freedom coalition. i will also include letters for the record raising concerns about the bill from the national district attorneys association and the fbi agents association. a reason why this bill has been successfully negotiated is that it represents a broad agreement among members. we all agreed stiff sentences cancer and important role protecting public safety and
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bringing justice to crime victims. so this bill will serve the primary mandatory minimums, will mandatoryhe primary minimums, to keep some certainat y and encourage criminals to cooperate with law enforcement. the bill expands some of those enhanced mandatory minimums to criminals with prior violent enemies and state crimes involving unlawful use of guns. new mandatoryo minimums for crimes involving interstate messick violence and materials to countries were terrorists. our current system has produced some specific instances of ,evere and excessive sentences and there are elements of the criminal justice system that all
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sponsors agree can and should be improved. so we all agree that we need to lower some of the harshest enhanced mandatory's. does not eliminate a single mandatory minimum. number of then a most severe ones, and we all agree we can do a better job of targeting those enhanced mandatory minimums to the most serious and violent offenders. this bill does just that. we also agree that our current system could benefit from giving inges a bit more discretion sentencing in certain areas. that is why we are expanding the current safety valve. we also create a second safety found so that nonviolent lve so that- va nonviolent offenders who play low-level roles in drug
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organizations are not improperly mandatoryy harsher minimums. finally, we agree that we must improve our prisons and stop revolving doors. lowerhave agreed to give risk inmates a chance to return to society earlier and with better prospects become productive law-abiding citizens. as i said, this is the biggest criminal justice reform in a generation, but we understand that this bill needs to be considered in context. the sentencing commission has already acted to release tens of thousands of inmates, many in a few weeks. there is a heroin epidemic raging. .ates seem to be rising again here in washington, the police chief has intruded some of the rates torder
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the release of prisoners after not serving long enough sentences, and i believe we have been careful to limit the people who gain relief under this bill while imposing tougher sentences on others. nearly -- thehas bill has been nearly unanimously praised them up there is some opposition. the bill is unpopular with some federal prosecutors. i might even agree with some of their criticisms. we are actually going to pass reform legislation. none of us will be completely happy, and we are not going to do better than what i think we have in front of us. i also understand some positions are: more hearings and a delay in markup. i did this is a thinly veiled
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attempt to kill the bill. they know we do not have a lot of time if we're going to get this, and we've had hearings on this subject over many years. subject over many years. and none of these groups were active when i was out there almost alone fighting other bills that would have gone too far in reducing mandatory minimums. but thanks to many people working together, we have produced this historic bill, and idea thatend for the this bill is about the united states senators working together. senators from both sides of the aisle, and senators with very different perspectives have come together to solve an important problem facing the united states, and i am honored to be part of that as chairman of this committee. senator leahy? thank you, mr. chairman.
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i think as use adjusted the problems facing our criminal justice system cannot continue to go on addressed -- unaddresssed. we love up to many people, for longer and is necessary to keep our communities safe. we have fewer resources to support public safety efforts that actually work. [indiscernible] system isal justice anything but just, particularly for many communities of color. problems likeex addiction, congress has to offer resorted to civil but deeply flawed minimums and. it is time we fix our mistakes. apply the fixl we retroactively so that those currently paying the price for our mistakes are given a second chance. this is an historic opportunity.
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should not squander it. this is a bipartisan bill. is not perfect. i would like it to go further. there are many mandatory minimums that are -- [indiscernible] and while it does not contain everything i might like, it does not contain every thing senator grassley would like. that is the nature of a compromise. it might be an example to those in the congress want to have all or nothing as the only way you actually take a step toward passing historic legislation. both sides have to work together. --er we will hear testimony because of senator grassley's leadership building on the work we did in the last congress, half the members serving on the senate judiciary committee, republicans and democrats across the political spectrum, are
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sponsors of this bill. the coalition can work for more reforms in the future. act is a good start. i viewed this bill not just as a senator, but through the eyes of a humor prosecutor death of a former prosperity. the shield i carried as state attorney in vermont, of the it reminds me brain with and and women on the front line who protect us every day. these individuals deserve to have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. i also think about the families affected by our criminal justice system, families of inmates, like i've witnessed that whose children grew up in foster care because she received a 19-years methamphetamine.
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she would be to first to admit she should have served some time, but 19 years? there are serial killers who serve less than that. she had no criminal history prior, no violence involved, but she was severed from her family thanxpayers and for more two decades. ates the reforms we have to pass. a quarter of them budget, less money for reentry program; after terrorists, unity area. i think that the attorney yates, and i think her for her leadership.
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it takes a few congresses to make any progress. we started this ever years ago. we have steadily increased bipartisan support. he continued [indiscernible] members who are here to serve the american people with historic reforms within our grasp. i thank all of those who responded -- [indiscernible] thank you, mr. chairman. senator grassley: our first witness is deputy attorney yates.she was thisn in earlier year. linee 2010, she was a prosecutor and supervisor with the u.s. attorney's office where she led a number of investigations and prosecutions, including that of olympic bomber -- ms. yate justs from georgia and
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receiver degrees from university of georgia. you may proceed, ms. yates. ms. yates: senator leahy and members of the committee, it is a privilege to talk about this critically important issue of sentencing reform, an issue that is important for our country and our criminal justice system. my perspective on sentencing policy is informed by my 26 years with the justice in theent as a line usa trenches, and now as deputy attorney general. it is because of my commitment and the fairety administration of justice that i believe it is critical that we nact meaningful sentencing reform. i've seen the impact that are our system has on the ability to carry out the department's mission, and i
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believe we can do better. we know the facts that bring us it today, and while the population is only grant by about 1/3 by 1980, the federal population has grown by more than 800%. half of all federal prisoners are drug dependence. our current sentencing laws do not calibrate a defendant's sentenced to match the threat they pose to our public safety, and at its core, that is because our mandatory minimum sentencing laws are based entirely on one factor, and that his drug quantity. catch such aaws broad net, we have a part-time distinction between the cartel leader that needs to go to prison for a long time in the low level person who does not. this comes with great cost, cost operate our prison system, cost our communities and families, and cost of public confidence in our system of justice. from a dollars and his perspective from the exploding population means that it now
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accounts for roughly 25% to 1/3 of the department budget. these prison costs are crowding out all the other important work the department does, in every dollar we spend imprisoning a drug offender for longer than or she needs to be there is a dollar that cannot be spent on prosecutors, agents, cops on the street, state and local law enforcement, prejudice, reentering him another crucial programs that are necessary to keep our communities safe. are calibrating the sentences for low-level by allowing us to devote ester resources in a manner that best keeps our community safe. in addition to the fiscal cost him there are human costs as well. of course the moon become of those who violate the law should be held accountable, there are some very dangerous people who
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need to go to prison for a very long time. but we need to ensure a sense of proportionality in arson and laws. the punishment statistics crime. take for example the case of a defendant whose record i recently reviewed it was an individual who only had a sick great education, -- a sixth grade education. he was invented of a street level crack the. crack deal. although he did not have a history of violence, he was sentenced to mandatory life in prison because he had two prior smalltime state convictions for selling cocaine, one of which involve less than an ounce. should he have been held accountable for violating our drug laws? yes. should he have to spend the rest of his life in prison for it? no. importantly, the costs are not just born by the defendants.
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too many children have parents in prison. 127 children, one in nine african-american children has a parent behind bars, and this cuts deeply into our society. when we send people to prison for longer than is necessary to protect the safety, we risk losing the public's faith in the fairness of their own criminal justice system, and this may prove the most costly price of all. our experience with the department's initiative demonstrates that more traditions use of mandatory minimum sentences works. under smart on current, prosecutors were directed not to seek mandatory minimum sentences for lower-level nonviolent drug offenses, and some feared that without having a hammer of a mandatory minimum sentence that we would not be able to encourage preparation be it work our way up the chain in drug organizations. the facts have not borne that
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out. smartthe institution of on crime, defendants are pleading guilty percent for the same rate they were before, and defendants are cooperating at the same rate they were before. but to make lasting change, congress must act. in section 3553 of title 18, congress set up the factors that a court should consider in fashioning the appropriate set. and that section opens with the overarching principle that the court should impose a sentence that is sufficient, but not greater than necessary to achieve the purposes of sentencing. sufficient, but not greater than necessary. anything beyond that is inconsistent with our principles of justice and with our system of law. there is a balance and we must strike, and i believe that the proposed sentencing reform and
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corrections act is a good step toward striking that spirit you again for inviting me to speak, and with that, i'm happy to take questions. senator grassley: we will have five-minute rounds. ofnly have two questions you, general yates. mandatory minimums provide uniformity in sentence to come and as he testified before the sentencing commission in 2010, mandatory sentencing laws increase deterrence and cooperation by those involved in a crime. that is what it was important to does nothis compromise eliminate any mandatory minimums of preserves the existence five-year and 10-year mandatory minimums for drug crimes. mandatoryreates new minimums for certain crimes, domestic violence of terrorism. but i always said i was open to
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some reform of mandatory minimum. testify back before the sentencing commission in 2010, there are real and significant excesses in terms of out forment being met some offenders under the existing mandatory sentencing laws, especially for some nonviolent offenses. that is what you have said and what have quoted is what we have tried to tackle in this compromise. so then the question, does the department believe that we have done a reasonable and responsible job in cutting back some of the mandatory minimums, even givenhave we the department some new tools to go after violent and repeat offenders? guess, i believe you
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have. as identified in 2010, mandatory minimums can be an important tool for prosecutors, as i also said, those minimums are both effective when they are targeted at the most serious crimes and at the most serious offenders. i believe that is what this proposal does. it targets mandatory minimums where we need them the most. additionally, this proposal gives us tools we did not have before. 924c, this ad a predicate to state offenses defendant is convicted. it can be a predicate for that compensable are for 851. co ide that drug convictions also count, but also kinds of violence, which are more important for my restrictive than the drug cases. i believe yesterday right balance and you have given the
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us other tools that will be us in keeping our communities safe. senator grassley: thank you. my last question, again, as part of this compromise, we agree to lower some of the harshest changes and apply those going not just forward them but the people who were convicted and sentenced under old laws,. inmates sentenced and asked a judge to sentence them in accordance with the new mandatory minimums. a prosecutor gets to weigh in also. will only get a lower sentence if the judge agrees that it is appropriate after the judge has considered factors like the inmate's prison contact and any danger to the community. this strikes me as a fair and just thing to do. but others have raised concerns about the department of justice i andto stand idly dow
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less dangerous criminals walk. this is my question, kind of a statement. i hope i have your commitment that the department of justice will review each of these recent re-sentencings on a case-by-case basis and the decisions will be made by local u.s. attorneys offices. senator, we are anything but idle at the department of justice. proposalarry out the in a thoughtful manner on on individualized basis at the individual attorney's office considering the circumstances of each case and then this matter will go before the sentencing judge who sentenced the defendant originally. we are committed to carrying this out in a way that keeps
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public safety foremost in our minds. thank you veryy: much. senator leahy? senator leahy: i would note on it hasry minimums, proven many, many times a problem. you have two cases where they are charts his same, but both the judge and the prosecutor no that the level of culpability is dramatically different -- the judge in the prosecutor know that the level of culpability is dramatically different. it ruins any possibility of discretion. ms. yates: that is true, and that is particularly true with drug sentencing that is involved drug volumes. it does not take into account how dangerous the particular offender is.
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you areleahy: when trying to find ways through that, the hearings i have held, we have had police officers, medical people, educators, they all agree on one thing. you simply can't arrest her way out of it. you need more drug court, more treatment program, more officers on the street. that costs money. and a lot of that money is going to the jails. a huge percentage of the department of justice budget goes to the prison system. , do you thinkhis it will save money and put it on things that really count? ms. yates: it will certainly
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free up money and one of the things we think is important is this money be reinvested. importantly, it includes more -- we need to be focusing more on prevention. we need to be doing more about prisoner reentry, and that is on the backendgs that will help to put people in the position to stay on the straight and narrow. freeing up this money so we can use it in a thoughtful way to keep our community safe is very important. senator leahy: we have from the justice department and elsewhere that mandatory minimums were absolutely necessary. it became almost a mantra.
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you in your own experience as a prosecutor and have said what others have said and what has been my experience -- mandatory minimum sentences are not necessary to get defendants to quite great. is that the department's position now? -- not necessary to get defendants to cooperate. is that the department's position now? yes, it is. one might have assumed that mandatory minimums were white --endants were cooperating, worldwide defendants were cooperating, but what we have seen from a data standpoint is that is simply not the case. cooperating at the same rate and pleading guilty at the same rate. you can see that statutes have even higher rates of guilty pleas and cooperation. my experience in all of these
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years of doing a prosecutor does not bear out that we need mandatory minimums, and nor does the data we have collected. senator leahy: thank you. a lot of current and former federal prosecutors think the grassley-leahy bill are reasonable and appropriate. a small number are raising concerns. what do you say to those people? ms. yates: i would say reasonable people can disagree and have a different philosophical approach, but just as we had some concerned with what would happen with smart on the attorney general directed a more judicious use of mandatory minimums, i think you see the same thing here after hopefully this legislation is enacted. senator leahy: thank you.
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senator grassley: i believe everybody who is at the table here was here when the gavel falls, so i will call you based on seniority. senator -- and senator feinstein. mr. chairman and i appreciate your hard work over a number of years. i believe the senate and senator leahy and senator biden and you, thurman created mandatory minimums, sentencing guidelines, ended parole, and did a number of other things that ended the revolving door in criminal justice and created a framework that these states followed through increased prosecutions and ending the revolving door
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and murder rates are have what they were in 1980. half what they were. of thousands of people since 1980 are alive today, living productive lives because they were not murdered. we know recidivism is a big issue. know according to the department of justice that 75% have been rearrested. we do not know what crimes they might have committed they were awayrrested for and got with. certainly that is true with drug dealers. we have a lot of people concerned about it. beenegislation that has produced, the national district attorney's association, the national share up association, the federal bureau of investigation agent association, they say "this bill should not be addressed by the senate committee at this time."
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officersnal narcotics association. "our membership remains opposed to the changes in the federal sentencing law that has been proposed." the national immigration and customs enforcement council, who it will have unintended consequences further hampering immigration enforcement in the united states of america. these federal law enforcement officers association. well, deputy attorney general yates, i want to get the straight. surely you would agree, would mandatoryhat when a reduced substantially , it reduces the ability to get -- to negotiate with the public. ms. yates: senator, actually i don't agree with that.
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senator sessions: ok, i will not argue. i will just take it as it is. [laughter] ms. yates: i will argue with you. senator sessions: i have been there. when someone is facing a 10-year minimum sentence and they are not going to go for the judge and talk their way out of it, it makes a difference. ms. yates: i do agree with you the prospect of a lengthy sentence provides a powerful incentive for defendant to cooperate, but i don't think it has to be a mandatory minimum sentence. that is what we have seen from smart on crime. there is always an incentive for a defendant to cooperate to reduce his or her sentence and it does not require the mandatory minimum to get them to that instance. senator sessions: all right. i don't agree. the national association of "ifed states attorneys said this bill is passed, it will add further fuel to a raging fire of
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thatasing crime rates correspond to so-called sentencing in criminal justice reform efforts of a state and federal level. these reforms are reversing 20 years of crime reductions and endanger the american public." i would ask for those for the record. senator leahy: they will be put in the record. now, theessions: director from the fbi just this month, october first, recently said he was "very concerned" by the increase in violent crimes of murder in cities across the country and it would prompt him about moves tol reform the nation's criminal justice system. on october 14, the director said, we have hit historic lows and violent crimes recently and if we let it slide back, we need to explain to those who come after us, what we did or didn't do to make that happen. that's exactly the way i feel
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about it. i was appointed a united states attorney in 1981 and i saw the crime was increasing at 15 percent year -- a year some years. the american people were really upset about it. have worked.orts we have taken a number of steps to undermine those guidelines already. justicesme court, the say they do not have to follow the guidelines. they have not gotten around the mandatory minimums. i see my time is up. thank you for working on this. i think you have avoided some of the most dangerous things that have been proposed. we do need to be very careful.
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uncertaintynow that in sentencing is very important. can getction of crime away from us if we make errors today. senator grassley: senator feinstein. thank youinstein: very much, mr. chairman. my exposure to mandatory minimums was a very long time setin california when we paroles for the indeterminate sentence for women connected -- convicted of felonies. what i found at that time was they were very unequal and i suspect it is the same problem today with federal minimums. i have never had a deep regard for mandatory minimum sentences. when the minimum
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is changed and the six-month triggered, that there be some ability for a united to sign aorney document or otherwise indicate they are in agreement with this. and if they have concerns, they have an opportunity to indicate those concerns. i submitted language to you, it is my understanding as of saturday your chief of staff signed off on it. they were good enough to sit down with me and we went over the bill. that we will be of ato have some sign off prosecutor on the sentence. it is my understanding you are in agreement with this. you sent me a letter dated
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october 16. is that correct? yes, the proposal use and over certainly reflects the kind of process we would go through at the department of justice before agreeing to any sentencing reduction. we recognize how important it is that we be thoughtful. and we carefully review the case. process we would be following in the department of justice anyway. this, i willollow leave that to you. thank youinstein: very much. senator grassley: senator gorman. senator gorman: i am proud to be a sponsor of this legislation. i would point out to my friend
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from alabama that this does not reduce a single mentoring minimum, it creates new mandatory minimums and extends the scope of several existing ones related to violence. the senator speaks from experience with the criminal justice system and he is urging us to be very, very careful and i agree. , very carefulery because public safety is at stake. appreciate you including the corn in white -- c ornyn white house act. motivation for this legislation came from our experience in texas, where we are proud to be tough on crime. and we realize that people who go to prison typically get out of prison and many are woefully
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unprepared to deal with the real world. they end up back in prison. you alluded to that. thankfully our experience in texas and other states, we have been able to reduce our crime causesy dealing with the -- mental illness, drugs or alcohol, alack of basic skills or even basic education. we have been able to reduce our crime rate and our incarceration rate. the recipe for success in our state has been three elements. rehabilitation. something we all learned about in law school or criminal justice schools, but we seem to have forgotten about. people who give themselves the
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opportunity to turn their life around. not everybody will, but am well -- but some will, and we ought to give them the tools they need to do that. second, flexible sentencing and alternatives to prison for a .ow-risk nonviolent offenders criminologists, it makes them more likely to commit crimes in the future. call it higher ed for criminals. which is what our prison system has ended up being. we set up alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. and we were able to shut or and saveferent prisons
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a few billion dollars since 2007. something that is pretty popular in my state as you can imagine. we need to be careful that we do not just take that money and plow it back into providing people with the opportunity to turn their lives around. i am glad that we have all of -- witnesses with us today one of the things we found in -- faith-based volunteer programs going into programs and volunteer participation by inmates gives people additional motivation to not just rehabilitate themselves rehabilitate their lives and families. i agree with senator leahy.
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this is not a panacea. our work is not completed now that the work has been introduced and hopefully will be voted out of committee. it is a good start. we have an arduous process ahead of us. i hope these senator from alabama who is skeptical of some of this work can help us make it better and that is what this process is designed to do. actually, i am delighted to be process of finding solutions to our problems. unfortunately our polarized be the and ofto the political spectrum, but not to find common ground. and that is what we need to do. conclude by telling the chairman and the ranking member, senator german -- senator durbin, senator graham, senator lee who are cosponsors,
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thank you for continuing work on this legislation. thank you. >> it was a little over two years ago when senator leahy and i introduced the first version of this bill. i thought we made a good faith effort and we had a lot of cosponsors, but we would not be sitting here today with the very real prospect of enacting this bill had a number of people not joined us in the bill. first of all, the chairman of this committee. senator grassley did not care much for the original version of this bill and he said so. the effort craft of before us today. there was a lot of hard work involved in much of it done by our staff. but at the end, we have a type --will work the
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the title of meaningful historic reform. i would like to thank ms. he ate from the department of -- ms. ya tes from the justice department. there are a couple things i want to make clear. we believe there are many nonviolent drug offenders currently funding -- serving lengthy mandatory minimum sentences and that is the category we were looking at. in 2011, the sentencing commission did a comprehensive study on mandatory minimums. they found 55,000 people were in serving mandatory minimums for a drug crime. that's more than 50% of all federal drug offenders and more than one quarter of all federal prisoners. many of those serving were low-level offenders. other low level offenders are
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frequently sentence. what is your response to the claim that this is much a do nott nothing, that we are going to address a large segment of the population. if you look at the profile of drug offenders in prisons now, you will see that there are what we call low-level nonviolent drug offenders. weapon. of them had a half of them have little or no criminal history at all and only are leaders. those statistics alone should tell you there's a fairly sizable group of folks up there that do not do need to be sentencing a sentence as long as they are. senator durbin: my colleague
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senator sessions rightly -- we have to make certain that you are engaged the with preventing these violent crimes. so, i applaud this. there are violent cities where gun crime is up dramatically. i do not want to make it any easier under those circumstances. distinctionee a between violent crime, murder, and what we're trying to achieve with those drug offenders? ms. yates: we look not only at what the offensive conviction was, but also the defendant's history. only cutting sentences for low level nonviolent drug
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offenders. durbin: it does not repeal any. it establishes two new ones. when you are dealing with a bad actor, that judge still has an opportunity to deal with the maximal level in this case? absolutely. the mandatory minimum is the floor for a sentence, not the ceiling. judge who was: a the appointment of president reagan here is what he said. there are few federal judges involved in criminal sentencing who have not had the disheartening experience of level offenders --
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what we have tried to make clear is kingpins will not get a break at all. is that clear to you as a federal prosecutor? ms. yates: it is clear. kingpins should not get a break. senator grassley: satterlee. lee: thank- senator you. thank you for responding to our questions. since my time as a federal beencutor, i have concerned about the excesses of our federal justice system. the sentence is required by our federal mandatory minimum laws result in sentences that simply do not fit the crime. they are too long and in many cases they are objectively unjust. that is why more than two years ago, senator durbin and i teamed
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issue and we first involved the smarter sentencing act. we can make federal sentencing more fair and efficient without doing anything to undermine public safety. i believe we can do this in a way that will enhance public safety. these sentencing reform and corrections act achieves that by doing some things to reform the most severe penalties that often lead to disproportionate sentences. andncreasing opportunities incentives for locating programming within the sentencing system. this bill does nothing to
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eliminate any mandatory minimum sentence. it does nothing of the sort, is that correct? ms. yates: no, they are all still in place. nor does it reduce and in some cases it raises the maximum and a new cases, we create new penalties that do not exist. some opponents of sentencing reform, the type of reform effort we are trying to undertake here believe it will necessarily unavoidably undermine our ability to keep the american people safe. you have been an outspoken leader on this issue. you believe it will enhance our ability to keep the american people safe. elaborate on this belief that you have got.
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to act now toneed ensure the safety of our and to use this more thoughtfully to keep our people safe. was talking about innovative programs in texas. we're not doing enough of that in the federal system. those are the things that are really going to have an impact on keeping our communities safe. senator sessions mentioned the rate.vism our recidivism rate has remained the same for the last 30 years despite the high incarceration rate. that tells you when he to be also look ate. at the states, the 29 states in the country that have enacted
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meaningful sentencing reform. all of the states have experienced an increase in violent crime. violence is not increased across the country entirely, but it has gone down more in states that have enacted meaningful criminal justice reform than anyplace else. critic -- senator the bill willf say that states are by nature different, that they are different types of offenders. that these reform programs, they are so successful, our states have no place within the federal system. now perhaps that may have been true one hundred years ago or even 50 or 60 years ago, but in my experience as a u.s. attorney, i don't think it is always the case anymore. others where those whoas are being prosecuted in the federal system are not
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than thosedifferent that are being prosecuted in the state system. in light of that fact, not everybody we are going after in the nonviolent drug offender arena is necessarily aching pain, don't you think some of those lower-level offenders could benefit from these programs in the same way that many offenders have benefited in the state system? ms. yates: absolutely. there is a category that is different in this the system and federal system. but this reform is not aimed at those defendants. this is aimed at the defendants that are like those that a big prosecuted in the state. the lower-level drug defendants. senator lee: there may have been a time many decades ago when we were not going after many of the people. there are a variety of reasons for that, we do not have time for that now. that is why we need these provisions and federal law today. ms. yates:


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