WASHINGTON, D.C.-Chief United States District Judge William K. Sessions III of Cornwall, Vt., was confirmed today by the Senate as chair of the United States Sentencing Commission. Sessions, a Democrat, had been nominated for this post by President Barack Obama on April 20.
Sessions said, "I am honored to have been nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as chair of the commission. This is a particularly exciting time because the commission is holding a series of regional public hearings throughout the nation to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act and the establishment of the commission. These hearings allow commissioners to hear directly from judges, practitioners, academics, and other individuals about their experiences with, and suggestions regarding, federal sentencing policy."
Sessions has served as a vice chairman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission since November 1999 when he was appointed to that post by President Clinton. Sessions was reappointed for a second term by President Bush in December 2003. He has served as a chief district court judge for the District of Vermont since July 2002, having served as a district court judge since 1995 when he was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton. From 1978-1995, he was a partner with the Middlebury firm of Sessions, Keiner, Dumont & Barnes. Judge Sessions previously served in the Office of the Public Defender for Addison County, as a professor at the Vermont Law School, and as an officer in the United States Army. He served on the Judicial Branch Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 2002-2007, and currently serves as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States and on the Second Circuit Judicial Council. Judge Sessions received a B.A. degree from Middlebury College and a J.D. degree from the George Washington School of Law.
In 2007, Sessions ruled in favor of the Sierra Club, the states of Vermont and New York, and other environmental groups in rejecting the auto industry's attempt to block states from regulating so-called global warming emissions from cars.
Session's emissions ruling opened the doors for New York and Vermont to proceed with enacting the California Clean Car (Pavley) Standards, pending EPA approval. These standards, adopted by California and at least 11 other states, are believed by some legislators and environmentalits to reduce global warming emissions from cars by 30 percent when fully implemented in 2016. The case was a watershed moment in the legal battle over the California Standards and had an important impact on similar cases in California and Rhode Island.
The United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was established in 1984 to develop a national sentencing strategy for the federal courts.