« Capital ruling and Booker GVRs from SCOTUS | Main | More death and habeas from SCOTUS »

June 28, 2005

Initial end-of-Term reflections on criminal justice and sentencing

Though the blogsphere and the media are still focused principally on Monday's Ten Commandments and file sharing rulings from the Supreme Court, it will soon be time for end of Term reflections.  Indeed, Scripps Howard News Service already has this review of the Term just completed, and I trust we will see more of the same soon from many sources. 

To beat the rush, here are my first-cut anecdotal impressions (biased by my inevitable sentencing focus) of the Supreme Court's criminal justice work this Term: (1) there were a lot of capital and habeas cases, (2) there were relatively few police practices cases, and (3) criminal defendants and prisoners generally did better than I have come to expect.   Notably, if you count Cutter and Medellin and Raich as criminal justice decisions, half of Tom Goldstein's ten biggest rulings of the Term are criminal cases.  However, because I view those cases as examples of the common intersection of federalism and constitutional law in the midst of the criminal justice system, in my mind only Booker and Roper should be remembered as big criminal justice decisions from this past Term.

I believe the limited number of big criminal justice rulings flows directly from Supreme Court's apparent obsession with capital cases (which I have lamented in previous posts here and here and here and here), as well as its constant need to sort out procedurally intricate habeas/AEDPA issues.  Effectively capturing my own frustrations with the Supreme Court's sentencing docket, Mike at Crime & Federalism has these astute and potent comments:

What's up with the Court's granting cert. on so many death cases?  The death penalty is rarely meted out.  If the members of the Court really cared about sentencing, they'd grant cert. on the various Blakely/Booker issues.  If the "liberals" cared so much about justice in sentencing, they'd not have crafted their lame and unprincipled Booker remedial scheme. Sure, "death is different," but death is also rare.  The horrors of prison are real and frequent.  Why not ensure that only those found guilty by a jury of their peers spend time in prison?

UPDATEAlso getting a jump on end-of-Term coverage is Tony Mauro, who has this great piece at Legal Times (which can be accessed by all thanks to law.com).  Tony's piece has lots of perspectives on the Court's work this Term, and it closes with a set of great NBA analogies that now have me trying to decide if SCOTUS had a year more like the Spurs or the Pistons.  (Perhaps the High Court's home-town Washington Wizards might be the best comparison, since the Wizards had a pretty exciting and often surprising year.)

NBA/SCOTUS comparisons seem especially apt today.  Tonight is the NBA's draft, and all the buzz over who might soon play in the NBA seems pretty comparable to all the buzz over who might soon be a Justice if there is a retirement announcement.  Perhaps we might even see some NBA general manager, looking for a sleeper pick late in the NBA draft, drawn in by the Draft Prado campaign.

June 28, 2005 at 12:49 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Initial end-of-Term reflections on criminal justice and sentencing:

» Blog Update from SCOTUSblog
For blog entries related to yesterday's decisions, see Monday's Links--Final Version, posted below. In other news: Here are end-of-term reflections from Sentencing Law & Policy. Eugene Volokh has this post about Senator Cornyn's proposal to limit the s... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 28, 2005 8:53:51 AM

» It's the end of the Term as We Know it from PrawfsBlawg
My friend Doug Berman has some interesting thoughts on the criminal justice cases from SCOTUS this past term over at Sentencing Law and Policy. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 28, 2005 9:07:16 AM


I'd agree with that, adding the caveat that to the extent many recent death cases have been from Texas, our capital system and the judges that oversee it are so nightmarishly mediaeval that it perhaps deserves the added scrutiny.

That said, Mike's comments remind us that the same system in Texas routinely convicting innocent defendants in capital cases garnering national attention applies LESS rigor to cases of lesser public visibility, particularly regarding the drug war. Too often liberals focus on death cases because it's "different," but the result has been for liberal critiques of the criminal justice system often to miss the forest for the trees. That's a primary reason, IMO, for the rise of what you, Doc, have referred to as the "new right" in the states on sentencing. In the legislative arena, conservatives are starting to address those big-picture topics liberals have eschewed, since politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and vast constituencies exist to support reform.

Posted by: Scott | Jun 28, 2005 8:18:34 AM

great article ery informative. love to read more of you work

Posted by: background check | Nov 9, 2005 5:21:39 PM

dell inspiron 600m battery

Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 10:45:04 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB