Biden moves to revitalise U.S. sentencing panel, nominates first Black chair

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Biden welcomes Italy's Prime Minister Draghi at the White House in Washington

By Nate Raymond and Rami Ayyub

(Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated seven new members to the hobbled U.S. Sentencing Commission, restoring hope among criminal justice reform advocates that it could soon issue new guidelines to help ease prison sentences they view as excessive.

The commission lost its quorum in January 2019, a month after former Republican President Donald Trump signed into law the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at easing harsh sentencing for non-violent offenders and at reducing recidivism.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, its lone remaining member and acting chair, said the lack of a quorum has meant the panel has been unable to issue new guidelines for courts to apply.

The bipartisan slate of replacements includes U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, a federal judge from Mississippi who would be the first Black person to ever to chair the commission. Claire McCusker Murray, a Justice Department official during the Trump administration, would serve as vice chair.

John Gleeson, another nominee, is a prominent former federal judge from Brooklyn and critic of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. U.S. Circuit Judge Luis Restrepo and Laura Mate, director of the Sentencing Resource Counsel, both have experience as public defenders.

Biden also nominated Candice Wong, a federal prosecutor in Washington state, and U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom in Kentucky.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Howard Goller)