Friday, May 14, 2010

Justice Kennedy speaks to PB Bar Association

John Pacenti has the details here. The whole thing is definitely worth a read, but here is a part:

Under Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Kennedy voted with the majority 92 percent of the time in the 2008-2009 term. On the 23 decisions decided by 5-4 votes, Kennedy was in the majority in all but five. “I don’t swing around the cases. They swing around me,” he said. “My jurisprudence is quite consistent.”

In one of his many jokes during the speech, Kennedy was asked what makes an “activist court.” He replied, “An activist court is a court that makes a decision you don’t like.”

But Kennedy also was serious. He said it’s important to teach the young about the Constitution and its importance because the law in other countries is considered a threat, not a blessing for society.

When asked if empathy has a place in judicial rulings at the highest levels, Kennedy said absolutely. He said prison sentences in the United States are eight times longer than in other Western countries for the same crimes.

“If lack of empathy means you close your eyes to the law’s decree, that’s just silly,” Kennedy said. “Capital defendants in a single windowless 12-by-8 cell for 20 years waiting for their sentence. You are not supposed to know this when you are a judge?” He said mandatory minimum laws passed by state legislatures are cost foolish and have created a failing penal system. In conclusion, Kennedy said he expects the dynamic to change among justices when Kagan, if confirmed, joins the court. “It’s a new table. It’s a new court,” he said.

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