Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Supreme Court continues to disappoint. This decision on allowing juveniles to be executed is very depressing. Less for the actual decision but for the way they made it. They're just making it up now. Why are we making reference to international standards? How is that relevant to a case in the United States? Are we going to defer to international standards on abortion? Oh, no. That would limit abortions? So, it is going to be just arbitrary usage of international standards whenever they support what justices want to do and ignoring them when the standards don't support their opinions.

We have a federalist system. Why should they stop states from establishing rigorous methods of deciding if a juvenile is tried as a minor?

Scalia was at his best in his dissent.
Scalia, in a separate dissent joined by Rehnquist and Thomas, took the majority to task for "proclaim[ing] itself sole arbiter of our Nation's moral standards -- and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purport[ing] to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures."

Noting that most countries have more restrictive abortion laws than the United States, Scalia accused the court of "invok[ing] alien law when it agrees with one's own thinking, and ignor[ing] it otherwise." He read his opinion from the bench, a sign of strong disapproval for the court's decision.

Scalia also pointed out that the 18 death-penalty states that limit capital punishment to offenders 18 and older amount to 47 percent of the 38 death-penalty states.

"Words have no meaning if the views of less than 50 percent of death penalty States can constitute a national consensus," he wrote.

I read about this decision during lunch yesterday and so when my AP Government kids came in, I asked them how they thought the Supreme Court had decided. We had watched some of the C-Span debate between Breyer and Scalia on using international court opinions the other day. The kids had broken down basically in their partisan groups about whether the Supremes should cite international courts. They broke down the same way on allowing the death penalty for juveniles. I asked them how they would justify their opinion using the Constitution instead of just saying that it seemed wrong to them. They kept just saying that the death penalty was wrong or that kids shouldn't be executed. Then I thought to myself, why press them to justify their opinions with the Constitution? The five justices clearly aren't making that effort; why should these high school students have to do more than the justices.

Since many of my students are only fifteen, the joke quickly went around the class that they better commit any murders they wanted in the next few years. If this is the joke among moral, well-behaved kids, what do you think the reaction is among gang members and thugs?