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Judicial activism - Essay Example

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In Roper v. Simmons, a seventeen year old by the name of Simmons confessed that he plotted the murder and burglary of an older woman. This case placed the question before the Courts as to whether or not a person younger than eighteen years old should be punished with the death penalty when convicted of crimes that would typically mandated capital punishment. The seventeen year old was originally sentenced to death for his crimes. This decision was later overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court and the defendant's sentence was converted to life imprisonment. The Missouri Supreme Court stated that although there were cases that illustrated that there was a precedent set that allowed for capital punishment for those persons under the age of eighteen, that a 'national consensus has developed against the execution of juvenile offenders'(2005). This case has since been heard by the United States Supreme Courts. Judicial activism and restraint are concepts that can be readily viewed in the Roper v. Simmons case when it was decided by the Supreme Court in March 2005.
The majority opinion addressed both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when considering the affirmation of the Missouri Supreme Court decision. ...
Per the court's opinion, neither the Eighth nor the Fourteenth Amendment disallows the use of the death penalty for either persons that are under the age of eighteen or that are deemed mentally retarded. The Court's majority states that twenty-two of thirty-seven death penalty states permit the death penalty for the offenders that are sixteen years old. The same thirty-seven states permitted the death penalty for those offenders that were seventeen years old. The Court went further to state that such figures are not indicative of a nation that is moving towards a consensus against capital punishment for those offenders that are less than eighteen years of age. Two court cases were consistently referenced in the opinion: Stanford v. Kentucky 492 U.S. 361 (1989) and Atkins v. Virginia 536 U.S. 304(2002). Stanford and Atkins speak to both issues of capital punishment for juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded. These two cases decided that it was not inappropriate to utilize the death penalty for those younger than age eighteen or mentally retarded, respectively. Typically, judicial restraint would have allowed the Supreme Court to overturn the Missouri Courts ruling based on precedents and existing laws. However, the majority opinion took its review of the existing laws by interpreting the intention of the laws and how they related to the intention of the Constitutional Amendments. The majority opinion stated that although the death penalty for youths and the mentally retarded were not prohibited, they were rarely used as methods of punishment. In many cases, the Court notes that allowances were made for juveniles that had committed heinous crimes because it was and is recognized that these persons have ...Show more
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Summary

Judicial activism and restraint are points of controversy for politicians, general public and the Supreme Court itself. Judicial activism refers to the court's willingness to become involved in major issues and the extent that it makes decisions based on constitutional grounds…
Judicial activism
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