United States v. Halper/Concurrence Kennedy

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Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Concurring Opinion

Justice KENNEDY, concurring.

I join the opinion of the Court and write only to discuss the limits of today's holding. As the Court points out, our holding will not undermine the Government's efforts to enforce the laws effectively, since appropriate alternatives remain to ensure the Government's ability to make full use of the sanctions authorized by statute. Ante, at 450-451. Our rule permits the imposition in the ordinary case of at least a fixed penalty roughly proportionate to the damage caused or a reasonably liquidated amount, plus double damages. Ante, at 449.

Today's holding, I would stress, constitutes an objective rule that is grounded in the nature of the sanction and the facts of the particular case. It does not authorize courts to undertake a broad inquiry into the subjective purposes that may be thought to lie behind a given judicial proceeding. Cf. Hicks v. Feiock, 485 U.S. 624, 635, 108 S.Ct. 1423, 1431, 99 L.Ed.2d 721 (1988); Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168-169, 83 S.Ct. 554, 567-568, 9 L.Ed.2d 644 (1963). Such an inquiry would be amorphous and speculative, and would mire the courts in the quagmire of differentiating among the multiple purposes that underlie every proceeding, whether it be civil or criminal in name. It also would breed confusion among legislators who seek to structure the mechanisms of proper law enforcement within constitutional commands. In approaching the sometimes difficult question whether an enactment constitutes what must be deemed a punishment, we have recognized that a number of objective factors bear on the in uiry. Ibid. In the case before us, I agree with the Court that the controlling circumstance is whether the civil penalty imposed in the second proceeding bears any rational relation to the damages suffered by the Government. Here it does not, so it must be considered punishment for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).