Oh, to be old and powerful. SCOTUS Justice Anthony Kennedy must be living the good life. He’s got a lifelong job in the middle of a global recession, and oh yeah, he’s the swing vote on the Supreme Court. I bet he doesn’t even drive a Toyota.
Justice Kennedy gave a talk at Pepperdine School of Law. The ABA Journal reports:
Kennedy’s “courtly and humorous” address at Pepperdine University’s School of Law included criticism of harsh sentences in the United States. He also responded to questions, including this one: “Does Justice Kennedy feel scolded?”
“He doesn’t,” Kennedy replied.
His response when asked about President Barack Obama’s comment that the ruling invited special-interest money into politics:
“I’ve got a lifetime job,” Kennedy said. “He doesn’t.”
Properly buoyant with that sense of unelected, inscrutable power, Justice Kennedy took a couple of lighthearted shots at the other branches of government.
Kennedy had a keen observation about the judiciary:
He drew laughter when he talked about the judicial branch of the government, saying “We’re the only branch of government to get its work done on time, thank you very much.” And, a bit later, “We’re the only branch of government that must give reasons for what we do.”
Well, it helps when you get to decide how much work you’ll do. But his point about having to explain why they do what they do is an excellent one.
But Kennedy saved his most pointed barbs for laws that diminish judicial discretion. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Kennedy expressed obvious dismay over the state of corrections and rehabilitation in the country. He said U.S. sentences are eight times longer than those issued by European courts. …
“The three-strikes law sponsor is the correctional officers’ union and that is sick!” Kennedy said of the measure mandating life sentences for third-time criminal offenders.
And that, my friends, is why judicial elections are probably a bad idea. If Kennedy had to run for office, statements like that would find their way into a “soft on crime” attack ad.
Unelected, unaccountable, and extremely powerful. The only thing that could make Justice Kennedy’s life better would be if he collaborated with James Cameron on a movie.
Justice Kennedy Doesn’t Feel Scolded [ABA Journal]
Justice injects humor at Pepperdine event [Ventura County Star]
Justice Kennedy laments the state of prisons in California, U.S. [L.A. Times]
Earlier: Should Judicial Elections Be Abolished?
SCOTUS Slammed at SOTU; Alito Mouths ‘Not True’ at the President