The Supreme Court spent more than a decade putting limits on the punishments dealt out to people who commit crimes as children. The Trump Supreme Court abruptly turned back that progress on Thursday, with a 6-3 decision making it easier to sentence a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent for the ages, shredding Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s majority opinion with repeated reference to Kavanaugh’s own past writing in which he preached respect for precedent.
“Today, the Court guts Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana,” Sotomayor wrote—the first a decision banning mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles and the second making Miller retroactive and banning not just mandatory life-without-parole sentences but going a step further, limiting life without parole to “all but the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.” In Jones v. Mississippi, the case decided Thursday, a man who killed his grandfather as a 15-year-old in 2004 challenged a judge’s imposition of life without parole because the judge did not describe him as permanently incorrigible.
Brett Jones, the man seeking to be released from a sentence of life without parole, was a victim of abuse by multiple people in his life, including the grandfather he stabbed to death—then tried to save with CPR. In prison, he has earned his GED. His grandmother—the widow of the man he killed—is “steadfast in her belief that Brett is not and never was irreparably corrupt.”
To Kavanaugh, the fact that the judge exercised discretion without formally considering whether Jones was permanently incorrigible was good enough. To Sotomayor, “the court is fooling no one” in the pretense that this was not a major rollback of earlier decisions—the kind of rollback that should require an admission that a precedent is being overturned.
”The Court simply rewrites Miller and Montgomery to say what the Court now wishes they had said, and then denies that it has done any such thing,” Sotomayor wrote. “The Court knows what it is doing.”
Of course it does. But it comes as no surprise that the man who, red-faced and screaming, lied his way through his confirmation hearing would write opinions lying about what he was doing to precedent once he was on the court.
And speaking of the Supreme Court, lies, and Republicans, in response to a Democratic proposal to expand the Supreme Court, Sen. Ted Cruz got out there and claimed, with a straight face, “You didn’t see Republicans when we had control of the Senate try to rig the game. You didn’t see us try to pack the court.” Sure, they held one seat open for nearly a year of then-President Barack Obama’s term and then rushed another confirmation through in record time weeks before the election, but that’s not packing, is it? (It totally is.) And Cruz is on the record saying that if Hillary Clinton had been elected president, he would have backed holding more seats open rather than allowing her to have justices confirmed.
It’s chapter infinity in “Republicans lie,” but it’s especially relevant as Kavanaugh lies in his official Supreme Court opinions, while writing for the Trump majority. This court can have no moral standing.