University of San Diego Law professor Michael Rappaport has written a response to my post arguing that, under a retributive theory of punishment, LA Lakers player Metta World Peace did not deserve to get extra punishment for his brutal elbowing of James Harden as a result of his previous offenses:
As a consequentialist, I might be the last person to ask about retribution, but I wonder whether this is right. Yes, World Peace has been punished for offense 1 already. But when someone commits offense 2, we need not think he is only being punished for offense 2. Depending on how the NBA rules are understood, he might be thought of as being punished for offense 2 by itself, plus for committing offense 2, having already committed offense 1. Put differently, one might think there was one offense — offense 2 — and another offense for having committed two offenses. In this respect, this latter offense is similar to the three strikes rule.
I don’t think the above logic works. If World Peace has already been punished adequately for offense 1, then there is no retributive justification for punishing him for it some more after he commits offense 2. If the punishment for offense 1 was insufficient, then perhaps he should get additional punishment for it; but that would be true regardless of whether he later commits offense 2. To put it a different way, there is no retributive justification for creating an “offense for having committed two offenses” if one of the two is a crime for which the perpetrator has already been adequately punished. The occurrence of offense 2 does not make offense 1 any worse or any more blameworthy than it was before.
Obviously, as I explained in my original post on this subject, there may well be good non-retributive reasons for inflicting extra punishment on repeat offenders, such as deterrence and incapacitation. But that’s a different issue.
Regardless of this disagreement, Mike and I agree on the far more important point that the 7 game suspension imposed by the NBA on World Peace was too lenient. No justice, no World Peace!