Monday, January 16, 2012

Justice Breyer's Criminal Law Voting Record

By Nathan Hall

Nathan Hall, a 2011 summa cum laude graduate of Albany Law School, is originally from Lake George, NY, but is now pursuing his law career in New York City. In law school, Nathan interned at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, was a research assistant in international law for three years, and was a Senior Editor on the Albany Law Review.

This paper examines Justice Stephen Breyer’s voting patterns on important criminal law issues. It studies cases between 2002, when John Roberts became Chief Justice, through the 2009-10 term. These forty-six cases show that, in general, Breyer sides with the accused more often than the prosecution.

However, Breyer seems very concerned about stare decisis and deferring to precedent he deems binding on the matter at hand. This has oftentimes led him away from his typical “rights of the accused” stance and to vote in favor of the prosecution.This has been true in several cases dealing with search and seizure and others dealing with the right of confrontation.

Arguments in criminal cases before the Supreme Court are more likely to secure Justice Breyer’s vote if they can persuade him that they are based on legal precedent.
Read the entire paper HERE.