[W]e cannot ascertain whether the District Court would have imposed a greater
or lesser sentence under an advisory framework. But the mandatory nature
of the Guidelines controlled the District Court’s analysis. Because the
sentencing calculus was governed by a guidelines framework erroneously believed
to be mandatory, the outcome of each sentencing hearing conducted under this
framework was necessarily affected. Although plain error jurisprudence generally
places the burden on an appellant to demonstrate specific prejudice flowing from
the District Court’s error, in this context– where mandatory sentencing was
governed by an erroneous scheme– prejudice can be presumed.
The Court also concluded (quite reasonably) that from the standpoint of judicial economy, it makes much more sense to remand such cases for resentencing rather than to spend judicial resources endlessly litigating plain error issues, as other circuits are doing. The Court stated,
This approach results in uniform treatment of post-Booker defendants on direct appeal, fostering certainty in the administration of justice and efficient use of judicial resources. Moreover, as the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has noted, “correction of error in the context of sentencing does not precipitate . . . burdensome and often lengthy consequence[s]” on remand. United States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103, 117 (2d Cir. 2005).