by Jeremy Leaming
The Supreme Court provided a mixed response to Arizona’s harsh immigration law, which also included an odd take on state sovereignty by Justice Antonin Scalia in his concurring, dissenting opinion. The Court’s right-wing bloc also overturned Montana Supreme Court’s decision supporting common sense campaign finance regulation.
So the high court’s most progressive action likely came in its 5-4 opinion, Miller v. Alabama. That opinion held that mandatory life sentences without parole of juveniles violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Citing precedent set forth in the cases Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida, Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, reiterated that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing. Because juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform, we explained ‘they are less deserving of the most severe punishments.’”
Children, Kagan, continued have different maturity levels than adults, they are more vulnerable to all kinds of pressures, and finally the child’s character is just not developed yet. Kagan noted the Court’s precedents “rested not only on common sense – on what ‘any parent knows’ – but on science and social science as well.”