Ageism

There are many reasons to dislike yesterday’s Supreme Court Roper v.
Simmons decision banning the execution of people who committed their crimes before their 18th birthdays. I agree with Justice Scalia that the Court
overstepped its bounds by overriding the judgments of legislatures and juries and imposing “The subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners.” I also agree with those like Orin Kerr that the majority’s argument that they are merely reflecting changing standards is a very weak (bordering on incompetent, in my opinion) one.

But, strangely enough, the main reason I don’t like the decision is that I think it establishes a position that is unfair and disrespectful to children (re-reading that makes me feel like Judge Smails from Caddyshack).

I understand that there may be efficiency reasons for setting arbitrary age limits to certain things (like drivers’ licenses), where the consensus is that many people below the age are insufficiently mature, and it’s impractical to discover exceptions. But, it seems to me that criminal justice is an area where it’s worth taking the time and effort to determine what punishment is appropriate for a particular criminal and crime. Juries spend a lot of time and effort doing just that. If the defense thinks that the criminal was not sufficiently responsible to face the ultimate punishment, then they should make that case to the jury.

I am certain that there are many 16 and 17-year-olds who are completely competent to be held responsible for their actions, both good and bad.

I suspect that many of them could make better judicial decisions than this one.

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