And Here’s To You, Justice Stevens…
Justice John Paul Stevens, king of the cranky-pants dissents, today writes a concurrence in Graham v. Florida for the sole purpose of bitch-slapping Justice Clarence Thomas. The ladies of SCOTUS joined him in the pile-on.
In his dissenting opinion, JUSTICE THOMAS argues that today’s holding is not entirely consistent with the controlling opinions in [string cite]. Post, at 7-9. Given that “evolving standards of decency” have played a central role in our Eighth Amendment jurisprudence for at least a century, [1910 case cite], this argument suggests the dissenting opinions in those cases more accurately describe the law today than does JUSTICE THOMAS’ rigid interpretation of the Amendment.
Society changes. Knowledge accumulates. We learn, sometimes, from our mistakes. Punishments that did not seem cruel and unusual at one time may, in the light of reason and experience, be found cruel and unusual at a later time; unless we are to abandon the moral commitment embodied in the Eighth Amendment, proportionality review must never become effectively obsolete, post at 8-9 and n.2.
While JUSTICE THOMAS would apparently not rule out a death sentence for a $50 theft by a 7-year-old, see post, at 4, 10, n.3, the Court wisely rejects his static approach to the law. Standards of decency have evolved since 1980. They will never stop doing so.
Damn, I’m going to miss that guy.