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Constitutional Law

Punishment

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Cleaning Up The Eighth Amendment Mess, Tom Stacy Mar 2005

Cleaning Up The Eighth Amendment Mess, Tom Stacy

ExpressO

This article criticizes the Court’s interpretation of the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause and proposes its own understanding. The Court’s jurisprudence is plagued by deep inconsistencies concerning the text, the Court’s own role, and a constitutional requirement of proportionate punishment.

In search of ways to redress these fundamental shortcomings, the article explores three alternative interpretations: 1) A textualist approach; 2) Justice Scalia’s understanding that the Clause forbids only punishments unacceptable for all offenses; and 3) a majoritarian approach that would consistently define cruel and unusual punishment in terms of legislative judgments and penal ...