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Constitutional Law

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Equal Protection Under The Carceral State, Aya Gruber Jan 2018

Equal Protection Under The Carceral State, Aya Gruber

Articles

McCleskey v. Kemp, the case that upheld the death penalty despite undeniable evidence of its racially disparate impact, is indelibly marked by Justice William Brennan’s phrase, “a fear of too much justice.” The popular interpretation of this phrase is that the Supreme Court harbored what I call a “disparity-claim fear,” dreading a future docket of racial discrimination claims and erecting an impossibly high bar for proving an equal protection violation. A related interpretation is that the majority had a “color-consciousness fear” of remedying discrimination through race-remedial policies. In contrast to these conventional views, I argue that the primary anxiety ...


The Death Penalty As Incapacitation, Marah S. Mcleod Jan 2018

The Death Penalty As Incapacitation, Marah S. Mcleod

Journal Articles

Courts and commentators give scant attention to the incapacitation rationale for capital punishment, focusing instead on retribution and deterrence. The idea that execution may be justified to prevent further violence by dangerous prisoners is often ignored in death penalty commentary. The view on the ground could not be more different. Hundreds of executions have been premised on the need to protect society from dangerous offenders. Two states require a finding of future dangerousness for any death sentence, and over a dozen others treat it as an aggravating factor that turns murder into a capital crime.

How can courts and commentators ...


Legal Vs. Factual Normative Questions & The True Scope Of Ring, Emad H. Atiq Jan 2018

Legal Vs. Factual Normative Questions & The True Scope Of Ring, Emad H. Atiq

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

When is a normative question a question of law rather than a question offact? The short answer, based on common law and constitutional rulings, is: it depends. For example, if the question concerns the fairness of contractual terms, it is a question of law. If it concerns the reasonableness of dangerous risk-taking in a negligence suit, it is a question of fact. If it concerns the obscenity of speech, it was a question of fact prior to the Supreme Court's seminal cases on free speech during the 1970s, but is now treated as law-like. This variance in the case ...


Convictions Of Innocent People With Intellectual Disability, Sheri Johnson, John H. Blume, Amelia Courtney Hritz Jan 2018

Convictions Of Innocent People With Intellectual Disability, Sheri Johnson, John H. Blume, Amelia Courtney Hritz

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

In Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held that executing individuals with intellectual disability violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. In addition to concerns over culpability and deterrence, the Court’s judgment in Atkins was informed by the heightened “risk of wrongful execution” faced by persons with intellectual disability. This essay explores that question both anecdotally and quantitatively, hoping to illuminate the causes of wrongful conviction of persons with intellectual disability. We provide examples from our experiences in the Cornell Death Penalty Clinic and cases brought to our attention by defense attorneys. We also present ...


The Doctrine Of Severability In Constitutional Review: A Perspective From Singapore, Benjamin Joshua Ong Jan 2018

The Doctrine Of Severability In Constitutional Review: A Perspective From Singapore, Benjamin Joshua Ong

Research Collection School Of Law

The Singapore Court of Appeal’s decision in Prabagaran a/l Srivijayan v Public Prosecutor represents a substantial development in Singapore’s law on the doctrine of severability in constitutional review. An examination of Prabagaran reveals rich theoretical underpinnings relating to the nature of legislative intent. The case rightly locates the crux of the severability inquiry in secondary legislative intention, i.e. the legislature’s intention, at the time a statute was enacted, as to what should happen in the event that part of the statute is later held to be unconstitutional. This approach is preferable to the approach of ...


What We Think, What We Know And What We Think We Know About False Convictions, Samuel Gross Jan 2017

What We Think, What We Know And What We Think We Know About False Convictions, Samuel Gross

Articles

False convictions are notoriously difficult to study because they can neither be observed when they occur nor identified after the fact by any plausible research strategy. Our best shot is to collect data on those that come to light in legal proceedings that result in the exoneration of the convicted defendants. In May 2012, the National Registry of Exonerations released its first report, covering 873 exonerations from January 1989 through February 2012. By October 15, 2016, we had added 1,027 cases: 599 exonerations since March 1, 2012, and 428 that had already happened when we issued our initial report ...


Capital Punishment Of Unintentional Felony Murder, Guyora Binder, Brenner Fissell, Robert Weisberg Jan 2017

Capital Punishment Of Unintentional Felony Murder, Guyora Binder, Brenner Fissell, Robert Weisberg

Journal Articles

Under the prevailing interpretation of the Eighth Amendment in the lower courts, a defendant who causes a death inadvertently in the course of a felony is eligible for capital punishment. This unfortunate interpretation rests on an unduly mechanical reading of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Enmund v. Florida and Tison v. Arizona, which require culpability for capital punishment of co-felons who do not kill. The lower courts have drawn the unwarranted inference that these cases permit execution of those who cause death without any culpability towards death. This Article shows that this mechanical reading of precedent is mistaken, because ...


Justice Scalia’S Originalism And Formalism: The Rule Of Criminal Law As A Law Of Rules, Stephanos Bibas Aug 2016

Justice Scalia’S Originalism And Formalism: The Rule Of Criminal Law As A Law Of Rules, Stephanos Bibas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Far too many reporters and pundits collapse law into politics, assuming that the left–right divide between Democratic and Republican appointees neatly explains politically liberal versus politically conservative outcomes at the Supreme Court. The late Justice Antonin Scalia defied such caricatures. His consistent judicial philosophy made him the leading exponent of originalism, textualism, and formalism in American law, and over the course of his three decades on the Court, he changed the terms of judicial debate. Now, as a result, supporters and critics alike start with the plain meaning of the statutory or constitutional text rather than loose appeals to ...


Muscle Memory And The Local Concentration Of Capital Punishment, Lee B. Kovarsky Jan 2016

Muscle Memory And The Local Concentration Of Capital Punishment, Lee B. Kovarsky

Faculty Scholarship

No abstract provided.


Guerrilla Warfare And The Constitution, Sonja R. West Jul 2015

Guerrilla Warfare And The Constitution, Sonja R. West

Popular Media

Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court upheld, by a 5-4 vote, the states’ ability to execute death row inmates with a three-drug lethal injection cocktail that critics argue causes excruciating pain. The Court reasoned that states should be allowed to use the drug in question, despite its involvement in several botched executions, in part because states can no longer attain more effective alternatives. In the majority opinion, the justices spin an erroneous tale about “anti-death-penalty advocates” pressuring pharmaceutical companies into refusing to supply other, more humane drugs to the states for use in capital punishment. This alleged radical ...


Newsroom: Nason '05 Cited By U.S. Supreme Court, Roger Williams University School Of Law Jun 2015

Newsroom: Nason '05 Cited By U.S. Supreme Court, Roger Williams University School Of Law

Life of the Law School (1993- )

No abstract provided.


Death Penalty Drugs And The International Moral Marketplace, James Gibson, Corinna Barrett Lain Jan 2015

Death Penalty Drugs And The International Moral Marketplace, James Gibson, Corinna Barrett Lain

Law Faculty Publications

Across the country, executions have become increasingly problematic as states have found it more and more difficult to procure the drugs they need for lethal injection.At first blush, the drug shortage appears to be the result of pharmaceutical industry norms; companies that make drugs for healing (mostly in Europe) have refused to be merchants of death. But closer inspection reveals that European governments are the true change agents here. For decades, those governments have tried-and failed-to promote abolition of the death penalty through traditional instruments of international law. Turns out that the best way to export their abolitionist norms ...


Federal Appeals Court Spares Mentally Ill Man From Execution -- For Now, Lauren Carasik Dec 2014

Federal Appeals Court Spares Mentally Ill Man From Execution -- For Now, Lauren Carasik

Media Presence

No abstract provided.


A Tale Of Two (And Possibly Three) Atkins: Intellectual Disability And Capital Punishment Twelve Years After The Supreme Court's Creation Of A Categorical Bar, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Paul Marcus, Emily C. Paavola Dec 2014

A Tale Of Two (And Possibly Three) Atkins: Intellectual Disability And Capital Punishment Twelve Years After The Supreme Court's Creation Of A Categorical Bar, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Paul Marcus, Emily C. Paavola

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

This article examines empirically the capital cases decided by the lower courts since the United States Supreme Court created the categorical ban against the execution of persons with intellectual disability twelve years ago in the Atkins decision.


Death, Desuetude, And Original Meaning, John F. Stinneford Nov 2014

Death, Desuetude, And Original Meaning, John F. Stinneford

UF Law Faculty Publications

One of the most common objections to originalism is that it cannot cope with cultural change. One of the most commonly invoked examples of this claimed weakness is the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, whose original meaning would (it is argued) authorize barbaric punishment practices like flogging and branding, and disproportionate punishments like the death penalty for relatively minor offenses. This Article shows that this objection to originalism is inapt, at least with respect to the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. As I have shown in prior articles, the original meaning of “cruel and unusual” is “cruel and contrary to ...


Foreword: The Death Penalty In Decline: From Colonial America To The Present, John Bessler Jan 2014

Foreword: The Death Penalty In Decline: From Colonial America To The Present, John Bessler

All Faculty Scholarship

This Article traces the history of capital punishment in America. It describes the death penalty's curtailment in colonial Pennsylvania by William Penn, and the substantial influence of the Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria -- the first Enlightenment thinker to advocate the abolition of executions -- on the Founding Fathers' views. The Article also describes the transition away from "sanguinary" laws and punishments toward the "penitentiary system" and highlights the U.S. penal system's abandonment of non-lethal corporal punishments.


Death And Rehabilitation, Meghan J. Ryan Jan 2013

Death And Rehabilitation, Meghan J. Ryan

Faculty Scholarship

While rehabilitation is reemerging as an important penological goal, the Supreme Court is eroding the long-revered divide between capital and non-capital sentences. This raises the question of whether and how rehabilitation applies in the capital context. Courts and scholars have long concluded that it does not — that death is completely irrelevant to rehabilitation. Yet, historically, the death penalty in this country has been imposed in large part to induce the rehabilitation of offenders’ characters. Additionally, there are tales of the worst offenders transforming their characters when they are facing death, and several legal doctrines are based on the idea that ...


The Anomaly Of Executions: The Cruel And Unusual Punishments Clause In The 21st Century, John Bessler Jan 2013

The Anomaly Of Executions: The Cruel And Unusual Punishments Clause In The 21st Century, John Bessler

All Faculty Scholarship

This Article describes the anomaly of executions in the context of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. While the Supreme Court routinely reads the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause to protect prisoners from harm, the Court simultaneously interprets the Eighth Amendment to allow inmates to be executed. Corporal punishments short of death have long been abandoned in America’s penal system, yet executions — at least in a few locales, heavily concentrated in the South — persist. This Article, which seeks a principled and much more consistent interpretation of the Eighth Amendment, argues that executions should be declared unconstitutional ...


Tinkering Around The Edges: The Supreme Court's Death Penalty Jurisprudence, John Bessler Oct 2012

Tinkering Around The Edges: The Supreme Court's Death Penalty Jurisprudence, John Bessler

All Faculty Scholarship

This Essay examines America's death penalty forty years after Furman and provides a critique of the Supreme Court's existing Eighth Amendment case law. Part I briefly summarizes how the Court, to date, has approached death sentences, while Part II highlights the incongruous manner in which the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause has been read. For instance, Justice Antonin Scalia-one of the Court's most vocal proponents of "originalism" conceded that corporal punishments such as handbranding and public flogging are no longer constitutionally permissible; yet, he (and the Court itself) continues to allow death sentences to be imposed. The ...


The American Historical Review (April 2012) (Reviewing David Garland, Peculiar Institution: America’S Death Penalty In An Age Of Abolition, John Bessler Apr 2012

The American Historical Review (April 2012) (Reviewing David Garland, Peculiar Institution: America’S Death Penalty In An Age Of Abolition, John Bessler

All Faculty Scholarship

No abstract provided.


The Constitutional Right Not To Kill, Mark L. Rienzi Jan 2012

The Constitutional Right Not To Kill, Mark L. Rienzi

Scholarly Articles and Other Contributions

Federal and state governments participate in and/or permit a variety of different types of killings. These include military operations, capital punishment, assisted suicide, abortion and self-defense or defense of others. In a pluralistic society, it is no surprise that there will be some members of the population who refuse to participate in some or all of these types of killings. The question of how governments should treat such refusals is older than the Republic itself. Since colonial times, the answer to this question has been driven largely by statutory protections, with the Constitution playing a smaller role, particularly since ...


The Master Mason: How Professor Baldus Built A Bridge From Learning To Law And The Legacy Of Equal Justice He Leaves Behind, James E. Baker Jan 2012

The Master Mason: How Professor Baldus Built A Bridge From Learning To Law And The Legacy Of Equal Justice He Leaves Behind, James E. Baker

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

These are Chief Judge Baker’s remarks eulogizing the late Professor David Baldus. Chief Judge Baker observes that Professor Baldus was an extraordinary educator-lawyer who mastered the fields of social science and statistics. He adds that Professor Baldus was diligent in his research and strived to make the law accessible. Chief Judge Baker discusses how Professor Baldus’s research on the death penalty and proportionality review successfully bridged the law and learning, without ever losing sight of compassion.


Executions In America: How Constitutional Interpretation Has Restricted Capital Punishment, Andrea Paone Jul 2011

Executions In America: How Constitutional Interpretation Has Restricted Capital Punishment, Andrea Paone

Pell Scholars and Senior Theses

In upholding the constitutionality of capital punishment, the United States Supreme Court has utilized a strict construction interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, which has led the opponents of capital punishment to abandon the Due Process approach and look to the Eighth Amendment, for which the justices utilize a loose construction interpretation.


The Mandatory Death Penalty And A Sparsely Worded Constitution, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Apr 2011

The Mandatory Death Penalty And A Sparsely Worded Constitution, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Research Collection School Of Law

It was not unexpected that the Singapore Court of Appeal would reaffirm the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty for certain forms of drug trafficking in Yong Vui Kong v Public Prosecutor [2010] 3 S.L.R 489. ... The appellant made submissions based on Articles 9(1) and 12(1) of the Constitution, which respectively guarantee rights to life and personal liberty, and to equality before the law and equal protection of the law. This note examines aspects of the Article 9(1) arguments.


Original Habeas Redux, Lee B. Kovarsky Jan 2011

Original Habeas Redux, Lee B. Kovarsky

Faculty Scholarship

This article explores what is perhaps the Supreme Court’s most exotic appellate power— its authority to issue (inaptly-named) “original” writs of habeas corpus. Although I have been working on Original Habeas Redux for some time, the Troy Davis case has recently thrust this topic into the national spotlight. In Davis (2009), the Supreme Court exercised, for the first time in over forty years, its power to transfer an original habeas petition to a district court for merits adjudication. Having collected and tabulated two decades of new data, I argue that Davis is not a blip in an otherwise constant ...


Lethal Discrimination 2: Repairing The Remedies For Racial Discrimination In Capital Sentencing, J. Thomas Sullivan Apr 2010

Lethal Discrimination 2: Repairing The Remedies For Racial Discrimination In Capital Sentencing, J. Thomas Sullivan

Faculty Scholarship

No abstract provided.


When Lightning Strikes Back: South Carolina's Return To The Unconstitutional Standardless Capital Sentencing Regime Of The Pre-Furman Era, John H. Blume, Sheri Johnson, Emily C. Paavola, Keir M. Weyble Apr 2010

When Lightning Strikes Back: South Carolina's Return To The Unconstitutional Standardless Capital Sentencing Regime Of The Pre-Furman Era, John H. Blume, Sheri Johnson, Emily C. Paavola, Keir M. Weyble

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

No abstract provided.


Death Ineligibility And Habeas Corpus, Lee B. Kovarsky Jan 2010

Death Ineligibility And Habeas Corpus, Lee B. Kovarsky

Faculty Scholarship

I examine the interaction between what I call 'death ineligibility' challenges and the habeas writ. A death ineligibility claim alleges that a criminally-confined capital prisoner belongs to a category of offenders for which the Eighth Amendment forbids execution. By contrast, a 'crime innocence' claim alleges that, colloquially speaking, a capital prisoner 'wasn’t there, and didn’t do it.' In the last eight years, the Supreme Court has identified several new ineligibility categories, including mentally retarded offenders. Configured primarily to address crime innocence and procedural challenges, however, modern habeas law is poorly equipped to accommodate ineligibility claims. Death Ineligibility traces ...


Lessons Learned From The Evolution Of Evolving Standards, Corinna Barrett Lain Jan 2010

Lessons Learned From The Evolution Of Evolving Standards, Corinna Barrett Lain

Law Faculty Publications

In the discussion that follows, I explore the evolution of the "evolving standards" doctrine to make a point about its legitimacy and Supreme Court decisionmaking under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause more generally. In Part I, I trace the origins of the doctrine to its present state. In Part II, I turn to lessons learned from the evolution of "evolving standards," questioning the textual defense of the doctrine and the constraining power of law itself. I conclude that while the "evolving standards" doctrine is problematic, it is not the crux of the problem. Supreme Court decisionmaking in the death ...


Does The Eighth Amendment Punishments Clause Prohibit Only Punishments That Are Both Cruel And Unusual, Meghan J. Ryan Jan 2010

Does The Eighth Amendment Punishments Clause Prohibit Only Punishments That Are Both Cruel And Unusual, Meghan J. Ryan

Faculty Scholarship

There is a great struggle in the United States between proponents of the death penalty and death penalty abolitionists who believe that the practice is cruel and even unconstitutional. Although the punishment of death is enshrined in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, the Supreme Court seems to have followed its moral compass in chipping away at the death penalty because of the cruelty of the practice. The Court's struggle between the text of the Constitution and its moral inclinations in the death penalty context has resulted in an inconsistent and confusing Eighth Amendment Punishments Clause jurisprudence ...