Stevens and Thomas Exchange Barbs In Juvenile Life Without Parole Case

Thomas: Not Happy

As he’s about to retire, Justice John Paul Stevens doesn’t have to worry about keeping up good relations with his colleagues on the Supreme Court. Just as well. Today, he and Justice Clarence Thomas went at it over the court’s decision to bar life without parole sentences for juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses (Graham v. Florida).

Thomas started it. In his dissenting opinion, he quoted Stevens saying “we learn, sometimes for our mistakes,” to which Thomas responded: “Perhaps one day the court will learn from this one.”

Not to be outdone, Stevens struck back with the observation that Thomas “would apparently not rule out a death sentence for a $50 theft by a 7-year-old.” The court “wisely rejects” Thomas’ “static approach to the law,” the veteran added.

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