During four years of living in the US, I mostly felt like I was on familiar ground. But very occasionally I would be reminded that I was in a country that was not my own. The one biggie was the death penalty. Growing up in Australia, I never heard a cogent case put in favour of the death penalty. In Boston, I had several smart friends (one of whom I married) who made a strong case for it.
But all that didn’t change my view that the death penalty is fundamentally wrong, and I’m delighted to see that as of today, 5/9ths of the US Supreme Court agrees that it’s unconstitutional to put people to death for what they did as kids.
The real joy of Roper v Simmons*, however, isn’t the majority opinion. It’s Justice Scalia’s dissent. Here’s some choice snippets:
Because I do not believe that the meaning of our Eighth Amendment, any more than the meaning of other provisions of our Constitution, should be determined by the subjective views of five Members of this Court and like-minded foreigners, I dissent.
In other words, all the Court has done today, to borrow from another context, is to look over the heads of the crowd and pick out its friends.
Justice Scalia is wrong, but the judgment is a corker nonetheless. Recommended reading for any current or aspiring jurisprudes.