Justice Scalia: When Reading Long Documents Violates The 8th Amendment

March 31st, 2015

During oral argument in Brumfield v. Cain, Justice Scalia noted that he would not read the entire 20-volume record in this 8th Amendment death penalty case.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I haven’t read the whole record, you know, and I doubt that I’m going to. And I doubt that this Court is going to read the whole record in all of these Atkins cases in the future. I mean, what you’re saying is … you don’t think it’s fantastical?

This isn’t Justice Scalia’s first brush with lengthy reading and the 8th Amendment. Recall his comments to Deputy SG Kneedler during the Obamacare oral arguments?

JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Kneedler, what happened to the Eighth Amendment? You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages? (Laughter.) And do you really expect the Court to do that? Or do you expect us to — to give this function to our law clerks? Is this not totally unrealistic? That we are going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?

There you have it. Reading long documents violates the 8th Amendment, except where failing to do so would itself violate the 8th Amendment.