Justices Keen On Mandatory Minimum Sentences

During this morning’s oral argument, a couple of U.S. Supreme Court justices announced their enthusiasm for mandatory minimum sentences — of the linguistic, not criminal, kind. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had allowed Akin Gump’s Patricia Millett time to finish up her thought when she ran out of time during the Samantar v. Yousuf argument but she went on a little too long. (UPDATE: see Millett’s “sentence” below)

“You made that a long sentence,” Roberts noted when she finally finished.

Justice Antonin Scalia then jumped in when Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler also took advantage of some extra time to finish his point.

“A lot of long sentences,” Scalia observed.

Maybe the court needs to issue some new sentencing guidelines.

UPDATE: here’s Millett’s final sentence in full, according to the official Supreme Court transcript:

But in any given case, the role of the Executive Branch is going to have more or less deference based on whether it is speaking something within its traditional expertise: Are you a head of state? Were you a diplomat? But when it comes to war — and I — I’m not saying it would, but if it were to come to war with the very elements of the Torture Victim Protection Act and say that torture by an individual can be immunized just because it was done under color of law, then I think the Court has a very difficult concern that was flagged in Altmann to resolve, and I think we might draw a different — we would definitely come to a different answer than the Executive Branch in that situation.

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Lawrence Hurley

Reporter based in Washington