clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Scalia says Breyer and Ginsburg's death penalty dissent "rejects the Enlightenment"

Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Alex Wong/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Justice Antonin Scalia got the ruling he wanted in Glossip v. Gross, the Supreme Court's death penalty decision that came down Monday — but he still felt the need to express his views in his characteristic strongly-worded rhetoric, this time aimed at two liberals on the court.

What annoyed Scalia so much wasn't the main dissent in the case, signed onto by all four of the court's liberals, but a separate dissent written by Justice Stephen Breyer and signed onto by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The two called on the Court to reassess whether the death penalty was constitutional at all, and said they had both come to believe that it "now likely constitutes a legally prohibited 'cruel and unusual punishment.'"

So Scalia wrote a separate concurrence, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, which said not only that Breyer was wrong, but that he was rejecting the entire Enlightenment:

Scalia enlightenment

Scalia felt strongly enough that he decided to read his concurrence from the bench, which lawyer Tejinder Singh, a contributor to SCOTUSblog, wrote was "exceedingly rare" for a concurring opinion, rather than a majority opinion or a dissent. (Update: Slate's Dahlia Lithwick reports that what Scalia actually read "deviated from his written concurrence in some really odd ways.") Read more about the new death penalty ruling here.