Title

Social Science and the Law: The Influence of Social Science on the Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence of the Supreme Court

Presenter Information

Alec Schmidt

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 137A

Start Date

16-5-2013

End Date

16-5-2013

Abstract

With developments in the fields of criminology and neurology, social science is more relevant in Supreme Court jurisprudence. Many punishments that were thought to be constitutional have been struck down by the Supreme Court due to groundbreaking empirical data. This presentation explains the influence of social science on the law, specifically focusing on the eighth amendment jurisprudence of the Supreme Court. The role of social science in such rulings is examined. Many cases rely on social science in determining the constitutionality of a punishment, and many cases do not. An influence of social science, as well as a lack of influence, will be discussed. In examining the cases that implement empirical findings, it is found that in some cases social science can serve as an objective tool for determining whether or not a particular punishment is unconstitutional. However, in other cases premature findings are used in an ideological manner, which introduces the possibility of arbitrary rulings. Social science can serve as a method of objectively defining a punishment as either constitutional or cruel and unusual based on unbiased empirical findings. The implications of these findings are immense. The Supreme Court is not required to adhere to empirical findings; however, they have served as important aspects of case rulings. Although social science can benefit eighth amendment jurisprudence, a lack of methodology in its implementation reveals that it may be some time before social science is consistently and objectively relied on.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Simeon Sungi

Additional Mentoring Department

Law and Justice

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May 16th, 8:40 AM May 16th, 9:00 AM

Social Science and the Law: The Influence of Social Science on the Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence of the Supreme Court

SURC 137A

With developments in the fields of criminology and neurology, social science is more relevant in Supreme Court jurisprudence. Many punishments that were thought to be constitutional have been struck down by the Supreme Court due to groundbreaking empirical data. This presentation explains the influence of social science on the law, specifically focusing on the eighth amendment jurisprudence of the Supreme Court. The role of social science in such rulings is examined. Many cases rely on social science in determining the constitutionality of a punishment, and many cases do not. An influence of social science, as well as a lack of influence, will be discussed. In examining the cases that implement empirical findings, it is found that in some cases social science can serve as an objective tool for determining whether or not a particular punishment is unconstitutional. However, in other cases premature findings are used in an ideological manner, which introduces the possibility of arbitrary rulings. Social science can serve as a method of objectively defining a punishment as either constitutional or cruel and unusual based on unbiased empirical findings. The implications of these findings are immense. The Supreme Court is not required to adhere to empirical findings; however, they have served as important aspects of case rulings. Although social science can benefit eighth amendment jurisprudence, a lack of methodology in its implementation reveals that it may be some time before social science is consistently and objectively relied on.