Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,
Ovid
publius_ovidius

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The Supremes do the Two-Faced Shuffle

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that it is not constitutional to consider the the net worth of a company when awarding punitive damages in a lawsuit. In other words, if you feel punitive damages are worth $50,000, it's not appropriate to lower it to stop a company from going out of business or raise it if the company is so huge that they won't even notice the award. Ultimately, this has the net effect of ensuring that punitive damages are more punitive for smaller companies. Or to put it yet another way, the Supremes have ruled it unconstitutional to award disproportionately large punitive damage awards.

The Supremes also ruled that California's "Three Strikes" law is constitutional. This law states that upon a third felony conviction, judges and juries may no longer assess an appropriate punishment for the offender. Instead, the judge has to mete out whatever punishment the elected legislators who passed the bill see fit to award (anyone see a little problem there?). Never mind that this "One Size Fits All" law has sent people to prison for fifty years for shoplifting video tapes (in that case, if I recall correctly, the prosecutor had the choice of charging the perpetrator as a misdemeanor but chose not to in order to get the harsher sentence).

Now, regardless of whether or not you agree with either of those decisions, it does raise a curious question. Why is unconstitutional to allow a disproportionately large punishment against a corporation but it's not a problem to do the same against an individual?

Remember, though, these are the guys (and token gal and token African-American) who stopped the recount in Florida, than ruled against the recount because it couldn't be finished in time (because they stopped it) and then appointed our president.

When I have children, I wonder if they'll ask me if I remember what a democracy was like. I'll be honestly able to tell them "I don't know".

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