In the history of jurisprudence, there will be a special place for a judge who declares Louisiana summers unconstitutionally hot.
Come to think of it, that is a very popular position among those of us who live here. But because U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson ordered the state to cool down the death row quarters at Angola, the issue is not as clear cut.
Jackson ordered the state to come up with a plan to address the heat on death row. The state complied — and in fact appears to be willing enough to cool the place down. Still, the state is appealing the issue to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because it doesn’t want to be on the hook for potential costs if a similar constitutional violation is asserted at other facilities.
The circuit court put the brakes on Jackson’s order while the appeal continues, so any amelioration of the heat won’t be required to be addressed while the circuit court deliberates.
Many people on the outside looking in would probably say that Death Row’s murderers and rapists await more permanent and uncomfortable quarters in the next life. Yet there’s a reason the Founding Fathers of this country wrote into the Constitution a broad proscription on cruel and unusual punishment.
The writers of the Constitution only had a Philadelphia summer to contend with. They survived the heat, as do many law-abiding residents of Louisiana today.
The state may be willing to make accommodations for the heat on death row, but there is no role for the courts because there’s no constitutional protection against our sweaty summers.