Johnson Opinion Type 1

Kailey Houck
2 min readOct 26, 2020


Justice Johnson expresses his opinion regarding the case Louisiana v. Bryant and Bryant’s petition for a writ of certiorari. Bryant was sentenced to life in prison for the attempted theft of some hedge clippers. Bryant was a repeat offender, which caused the possibly excessive punishment.

It can be reasonably assumed that Bryant’s prior thefts were caused by addiction. Or poverty. Johnson explains that “In the years following Reconstruction, southern states criminalized recently emancipated African American citizens by introducing extreme sentences for petty theft associated with poverty.” (SUPREME 2) They were known in some places as “Pig Laws” because they wanted to continue using African Americans as forced-labor to “re-enslave” them. (SUPREME 2) The term “pig” is used because the laws targeted crimes “considered stereotypical of African Americans” such as stealing cattle and swine.” (SUPREME 2) Johnson explains how these laws remained in southern states and continue to use poverty to target African Americans.

Today, these unjust laws have adapted to still criminalize crimes “considered stereotypical of African Americans.” (SUPREME 2) In Bryant’s case, his fourth petty theft offense resulting in a punishment of life in prison is not permissible. Johnson states that a permissible sentence under Louisiana’s habitual offender sentencing scheme states “if it

makes no measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment or amounts to nothing more than the purposeful imposition of pain and suffering and is grossly out of proportion to the severity of the crime.” (SUPREME 2) Johnson claims that this scheme may still violate a defendant’s constitutional right not to be subjected to excessive punishment, and grants Bryant’s petition for a writ of certiorari.