Is Chief Justice Roberts Inviting More Cruel-Unusual Punishment Cases?


Chief Justice John Roberts’ concurring opinion in the Florida case on life without parole sentences for juveniles may invite “a more robust consideration by lower courts of the Eighth Amendment as a real limit on all sorts of non-capital sentences,” says Ohio State University law Prof. Doug Berman in his Sentencing Law and Policy blog. Berman calls Roberts “an independent and unpredictable thinker (and thus a potential swing vote) on challenging sentencing issues that reach the court.” He notes that early evidence suggests that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a former prosecutor, will be a predictably consistent vote for criminal defendants in tough cases.

Robert seems to be “drawn more to flexible case-by-case standards than to firm categorical rules in this (and perhaps other?) constitutional criminal justice settings,” Berman says.

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