Since the turn of the century, the Supreme Court has regulated noncapital sentencing under the Sixth Amendment in the Apprendi line of cases (requiring jury findings of fact to justify sentence enhancements) as well as under the Eighth Amendment in the Miller and Graham line of cases (forbidding mandatory life imprisonment for juvenile defendants). Although both lines of authority sound in individual rights, in fact they are fundamentally about the structures of criminal justice. These two seemingly disparate doctrines respond to structural imbalances in noncapital sentencing by promoting morally appropriate punishment judgments that are based on individualized input and that reflect the perspectives of multiple institutional actors. This new understanding illuminates how both doctrines relate to the Court’s earlier regulation of capital sentencing and how checks and balances can promote just punishment in a pluralistic system. It also underscores the need for other actors to complete the Court’s work outside the confines of rights-based judicial doctrines by experimenting with a broader range of reforms that are not constitutionally required but rather are constitutionally inspired.
Richard A. Bierschbach & Stephanos Bibas,
Constitutionally Tailoring Punishment,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol112/iss3/2