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Anthony Kennedy’s Song of Himself

From his perch on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy sings a song of himself. He specializes in grandiloquent assertions that are long on begged questions and pronouncements of the ipse dixit variety. Here are a few highlights from past terms of the Court:

Planned Parenthood v. Casey (joint opinion with Justices O’Connor and Souter), reaffirming the “essential holding” of Roe on the unconstitutionality of laws restricting the right of abortion: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life….”

Lawrence v. Texas, on the unconstitutionality of sodomy laws: “Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions….”

Roper v. Simmons, on the unconsitutionality of juvenile capital punishmetn: “It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty.”

This term Justice Kennedy added a few more highlights:

Boumediene v. Bush, extending the right of habeas corpus to Guananamo detainees: “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”

Kennedy v. Louisiana, on the unconstitutionality of capital punishment for child rape: “In most cases justice is not better served by terminating the life of the perpetrator rather than confining him and preserving the possibility that he and the system will find ways to allow him to understand the enormity of his offense. Difficulties in administering the penalty to ensure against its arbitrary and capricious application require adherence to a rule reserving its use, at this stage of evolving standards and in cases of crimes against individuals, for crimes that take the life of the victim.”

In today’s New York Times Linda Greenhouse confers the Times’s customary recognition on those who rewrite the Constitution in a leftward direction: “In a complicated term, Kennedy left boldest mark.”

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