Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin opines on what would the optimal punishment for World Peace for his vicious elbow to the head of James Hardin. While Ilya says that deterrence justifes a strong punishment, given World Peace’s previous acts of violence on the court, retribution would not:
On the other hand, if the goal of punishment is retribution, then Peace’s past offenses are irrelevant. Yes, he was at fault for the 2004 brawl at Auburn Hills and other incidents. But he has already been punished for them, and should not be penalized for them again. For a retributivist, what matters now is the appropriate punishment for offense currently at issue. And the latter should be determined solely by the seriousness of the rule violation, not by what we think of the offender’s past record.
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.
If I am right, then the right answer depends on how we understand the NBA rules.
Finally, for the record, I believe that World Peace should get at least a 10 game suspension, in part for his repeated acts of violence.
Update: It turns out that World Peace received a penalty of 7 games, which I believe is insufficient. A concussion is a serious matter. I am told that the problem is that if you receive a second head injury in approximately the next two weeks, there is a risk of permanent brain injury. That would suggest that Hardin should sit it out for 2 weeks. If the victim must do that — or should do that, even if he chooses not to — then World Peace should sit out considerably more games. 7 games is probably a bit more than 2 weeks, clearly insufficient. I would penalize him at least 6 weeks for this action, although I admit that past punishments to players generally might influence the appropriate punishment.