Lessons Learned from the Evolution of 'Evolving Standards'
University of Richmond - School of Law
February 18, 2010
Charleston Law Review, Vol. 4, p. 661, 2010
This symposium contribution traces the evolution of the "evolving standards of decency" doctrine to question the textual defense of the doctrine and the constraining power of law itself. The cases that paved the way to "evolving standards" as a measure of substantive Eighth Amendment protection show the Justices time and again rejecting the result that a cold reading of the law would provide in favor of what they thought was right. In turn, what they thought was right has tended to change with the sensibilities of the time. Herein lies the rub. We can get rid of the "evolving standards" doctrine, but decisions that follow our evolving standards of proper punishment practices are here to stay.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18
Keywords: death penalty, Eighth Amendment, Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause
Date posted: June 24, 2010
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