California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales, 514 U.S. 499, 2 (1995)

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punishment. In contrast, this Court has long held that the question of what legislative adjustments are of sufficient moment to transgress the constitutional prohibition must be a matter of degree, and has declined to articulate a single "formula" for making this determination. There is no need to do so here, either, since the amendment creates only the most speculative and attenuated possibility of increasing the measure of punishment for covered crimes, and such conjectural effects are insufficient under any threshold that might be established under the Clause. The amendment applies only to those who have taken more than one life, a class of prisoners for whom the likelihood of release on parole is quite remote. In addition, it affects the timing only of subsequent hearings, and does so only when the Board makes specific findings in the first hearing. Moreover, the Board has the authority to tailor the frequency of subsequent hearings. Respondent offers no support for his speculation that prisoners might experience an unanticipated change that is sufficiently monumental to alter their suitability for parole, or that such prisoners might be precluded from receiving a subsequent expedited hearing. Nor is there a reason to think that postponing an expedited hearing would extend any prisoner's actual confinement period. Since a parole release date often comes at least several years after a suitability finding, the Board could consider when a prisoner became "suitable" for parole in setting the actual release date. Pp. 508-513.

16 F. 3d 1001, reversed.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Souter, J., joined, post, p. 514.

James Ching, Supervising Deputy Attorney General of California, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Kenneth C. Young, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Joan W. Cavanagh, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, and G. Lewis Chartrand, Jr.

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