11 March 2005

US Supreme Court - capital punishment and minors

Roper v. Simmons

Fascinating on so many levels:
- the ultimate issue is interesting in its own right
- the question of over-ruling earlier decisions
- the (ambulatory) interpretation of the US Constitution - the reference to International Law (including a Convention which the US hasn't ratified - along with Somalia, the only countries in the world not to).

But I love it more for the language of the dissent and the (dysfunctional?) relationships and interaction between the judges.

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Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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