Opinion of the Court
changing the sentencing range applicable to covered crimes, the 1981 amendment simply "alters the method to be followed" in fixing a parole release date under identical substantive standards. See Miller, supra, at 433 (contrasting adjustment to presumptive sentencing range with change in "the method to be followed in determining the appropriate sentence"); see also Dobbert v. Florida, 432 U. S. 282, 293- 294 (1977) (contrasting change in the "quantum of punishment" with statute that merely "altered the methods employed in determining whether the death penalty was to be imposed").
Respondent nonetheless urges us to hold that the Ex Post Facto Clause forbids any legislative change that has any conceivable risk of affecting a prisoner's punishment. In his view, there is "no principled way to determine how significant a risk of enhanced confinement is to be tolerated." Brief for Respondent 39. Our cases have never accepted this expansive view of the Ex Post Facto Clause, and we will not endorse it here.
Respondent's approach would require that we invalidate any of a number of minor (and perhaps inevitable) mechanical changes that might produce some remote risk of impact on a prisoner's expected term of confinement. Under respondent's approach, the judiciary would be charged under the Ex Post Facto Clause with the micromanagement of an endless array of legislative adjustments to parole and sentencing procedures, including such innocuous adjustments as changes to the membership of the Board of Prison Terms, restrictions on the hours that prisoners may use the prison law library, reductions in the duration of the parole hearing, restrictions on the time allotted for a convicted defendant's right of allocution before a sentencing judge, and page limitations on a defendant's objections to presentence reports or on documents seeking a pardon from the governor. These and countless other changes might create some speculative,Page: Index Previous 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Next
Last modified: October 4, 2007