Nov 18
11:23 AM

Using Foreign and International Law in the U.S. Supreme Court

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two companion cases regarding whether it is cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment to sentence a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole for committing a non-homicide offense.  The two cases are Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412, in which Terrance Graham was sentenced to life for armed burglary at age 16 and a probation violation at age 17, and Sullivan v. Florida, No. 08-7621, in which a 13-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for the rape of an elderly woman.

The Petitioner, Respondent, and numerous amici on both sides raise international and comparative law issues (see e.g., the amicus brief filed by Amnesty International).  In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has frequently turned to international and foreign law to inform its Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. Graham, Sullivan, and their supporters argue that there is a consensus among states and among nations of the world that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is an inappropriate sentence for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses.


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