Liberal or conservative, my hope is that Supreme Court justices are at least familiar with the law. Again, I may be hoping for a little too much:
When the Supreme Court ruled last week that the death penalty for raping a child was unconstitutional, the majority noted that a child rapist could face the ultimate penalty in only six states — not in any of the 30 other states that have the death penalty, and not under the jurisdiction of the federal government either.
This inventory of jurisdictions was a central part of the court’s analysis, the foundation for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s conclusion in his majority opinion that capital punishment for child rape was contrary to the “evolving standards of decency” by which the court judges how the death penalty is applied.
It turns out that Justice Kennedy’s confident assertion about the absence of federal law was wrong.
A military law blog pointed out over the weekend that Congress, in fact, revised the sex crimes section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 2006 to add child rape to the military death penalty.
Remember, this is the same Supreme Court that has cited the laws of other countries in justifying its decisions. But looking up a relevant part of our own UCMJ was apparently beyond them.
In the linked post, the author calls this discovery “a lesson in humility.” I think we’re way beyond humility lessons here. This is just further evidence that the law is just a secondary consideration, and we are ruled by the whims of judges.