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January 17, 2006

The possible impact of a Sca-Roberts on sentencing jurisprudence

From a quick review, the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling today in the assisted suicide case, Gonzales v. Oregon, seems rich with meaning and ironies.  Of course, I am always seeing sentencing angles (even when they are not there), and today that angle comes from the fact that Chief Justice Roberts joined Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion in Gonzales v. Oregon.  When considered together with CJ Roberts' vote and opinion assignment to Justice Scalia in the 5-4 capital case decided last week (details here), I cannot help but observe that the new Chief seems so far to be quite in tune with Justice Scalia's view of the jurisprudential world.

Of course, though some may bemoan this (admittedly limited) evidence of a "Sca-Roberts," criminal defendants (at least those not on death row) should be pleased my over-reading of these early tea leaves.  As I explained in this post following the Alito nomination, from the perspective of a criminal defendant, a Supreme Court filled with justices like Antonin Scalia would not always be so bad because Justice Scalia's constitutional vision sometimes leads him to liberal results: consider Justice Scalia's work in Blakely, where he boldly asserts that "every defendant has the right to insist that the prosecutor prove to a jury all facts legally essential to the punishment," and Justice Scalia's work in Sullivan, where he argues that judges in some cases should not be permitted to affirm convictions by declaring certain constitutional violations harmless.

Recalling the current SCOTUS sentencing head-count on Apprendi-Blakely-Booker issues, it is remarkable to think about what might happen if Justices Roberts (and Justice Alito as well) were to embrace Justice Scalia's perspectives on jury trial rights.  Blakely's reach and impact might ultimately be even broader than anyone has predicted.

January 17, 2006 at 05:32 PM | Permalink

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Comments

With all due respect to the Chief Justice of the United States, Roberts; Justice Scalia; and perhaps if confirmed Justice Alito: We then might find the new sentencing guidelines threesome called 'Rascalito', though so-called only as an expedient moniker. This could prove an interesting inter-branch contentention, if congress were to continue passing determinate sentencing prescriptions.

Posted by: John Lopresti | Jan 18, 2006 12:31:40 AM

I find it interesting what Roberts told Oregon Senator Wyden of Oregon: "in cases dealing with end-of-life care, he would 'start with the supposition that one has the right to be left alone'"

So I think a big story is the value of Senate hearings on potential justices. Justices are free to say whatever they want and play the part of a moderate and then once appointed are not held responsible once they take office.


Find it here: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1123667975170530.xml&coll=7

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Posted by: brian | Jun 24, 2007 5:36:55 PM

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