Rule of Law

RELEASE: Justices Gorsuch and Jackson Today Provide Important Guidance to Lower Courts on Constitution’s Excessive Fines Clause

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the Supreme Court’s announcement of its decision in Tyler v. Hennepin County, Constitutional Accountability Center Appellate Counsel Miriam Becker-Cohen issued the following reaction:

Although the Supreme Court reversed the court below on Takings Clause grounds, Justice Gorsuch’s concurrence, joined by Justice Jackson, sends an important signal to other courts that they should be mindful of the lower court’s errors in applying the Excessive Fines Clause.  Echoing our brief, Justice Gorsuch emphasized that for purposes of discerning whether a statute imposes a “fine” within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment, “it matters not whether the scheme has a remedial purpose, even a predominantly remedial purpose.”  Rather, the Excessive Fines Clause applies to “any” statutory scheme that serves in part to punish. This point is supported not just by a clear line of Supreme Court precedents—cases cited in our brief and that Justice Gorsuch drew upon in his concurrence—but also by the history of the Excessive Fines Clause, dating all the way back to Magna Carta. We are pleased that two justices—typically perceived as coming from opposite sides of the ideological spectrum—united to make clear that courts should respect the text and history of the Excessive Fines Clause.

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