Oral Argument and Amicus Curiae

Oral Argument and Amicus Curiae

Oral Argument and Amicus Curiae

Oral Argument and Amicus Curiae

Synopsis

Members of the Supreme Court are supposed to base decisions on the law, but often their choices are better explained by political ideology and party loyalty. Roberts sheds light on this problem by looking at a part of the Court's life that has never been systematically studied. Most cases feature extra briefs written by third parties known as amici curiae. He examines the rare occasions on which the Court allows these extra groups to participate not just by filing briefs but by appearing before the Court during oral arguments. By tracing how these groups influence the justices' behavior, Roberts presents a strong case that the Court is driven by more than politics.

Excerpt

Louisiana

On Wednesday April16, 2008, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Kennedy v. Louisiana. Even though the Court had recently decided two high profile death penalty cases—Atkins v. Virginia (536 U.S. 304, 2002) and Roper v. Simmons (543 U.S. 551, 2005)—this latest case would address a different wrinkle in capital punishment. Some thirty years earlier in Coker v. Georgia (433 U.S. 584, 1977), the Court had ruled that the death penalty was not a suitable punishment for rape. Held to be out of proportion with the crime in question, capital punishment became effectively, if not explicitly, confined to instances involving the loss of human life. Although the facts of the case and the justices’ opinion referred narrowly to the rape of an adult woman, the holdings and dicta in Coker left unclear whether capital punishment would be permissible for the rape of a child.

In 1995, the state of Louisiana enacted a law that allowed the imposition of the death penalty for the rape of a child under the age of twelve. the first test of the law’s constitutionality would begin in 1998, when Patrick Kennedy called 911. in the call and in his subsequent testimony to authorities, Kennedy maintained that he found his eight year old stepdaughter shortly after she had been raped by two neighborhood boys. the girl described the same sequence of events—at least . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.