Monday, May 17, 2010

Heroes vs. Villians

Update-- I guess this is Justice Kennedy day. Today he wrote for the Supreme Court that a life sentence for a juvenile was unconstitutional where the defendant did not commit murder. He cited evolving standards of decency and also world standards. It's a fascinating read, especially in light of his comments on Friday regarding empathy and sentencing. More to follow.

Justice Kennedy doesn't like to pick sides or call himself the swing voter. On Friday, I posted John Pacenti's coverage of Kennedy's speech to the Palm Beach County Bar Association. His quote about being the swing voter is traveling around the blogosphere: "It has to me the imagery of these wild spatial gyrations. I don't swing around the cases. They swing around me. My jurisprudence is quite consistent."
In addition to Pacenti, the Palm Beach Post covered the talk here and the Palm Beach Daily News here:

"The Constitution doesn’t just belong to a bunch of judges and lawyers — it’s yours,” he told the students. “The principles of the Constitution and of freedom must be taught ... That’s how our heritage is handed down from one generation to the next.”
Kennedy told the group about a friend of his who had been an appellate judge for six months, when he listened to an argument from an attorney about how the trial judge had erred. The attorney closed his argument by saying the trial judge was new and had only been on the bench for three months.
“My friend leaned over and said, ‘It may interest you to know I’ve only been on this bench for six months,’” Kennedy said. “And without missing a beat, the lawyer said, ‘It’s surprising, your honor, how much a judge can learn in 90 days.’”
While speaking before a group of attorneys and judges, Kennedy was asked how he reads the enormous amount of briefs.
Kennedy told them he sometimes takes difficult cases home to read as he listens to opera music.
“I sometimes have one-opera cases and sometimes two-opera cases,” he said. “An attorney in the room raised his hand and said, ‘I have a rule like that when I write those briefs. I have a one-six-pack brief and a two-six-pack brief.’”

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