We argued that the right to counsel for youth is secured under the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of fundamental fairness in juvenile proceedings. We further argued that fundamental fairness requires: (1) an exacting standard for the effective representation of counsel that accounts for the developmental status of youth, (2) diligent youth-centered representation, and (3) a rebuttable presumption of prejudice. By contrast, under the Sixth Amendment’s Strickland standard the requirement that criminal defendants prove prejudice creates an unduly heavy burden for youthful defendants.
We argued that the Fourteenth Amendment due process guarantees requires juvenile offenders receive notice of the aggravating factors a court may rely on to impose a manifest injustice sentence before the entry of a guilty plea or agreeing to a deferred disposition.
Sixteen-year-old M.S. agreed to a deferred believing he was subject to a standard range sentence. Subsequently, under Washington’s Manifest Injustice provision of the Juvenile Code, the court imposed a longer sentence on M.S. based on aggravating factors that are not identified in Washington’s Juvenile Justice Act and that he had no notice of at the time he made his agreement. M.S.’s sentence was twelve times longer than the maximum standard range.
We argued that the legal interests at stake in termination proceedings are distinct from the child’s custodial preferences and that counsel for a child’s legal interest in a TPR hearing must advise the child in an age-appropriate manner, and must ascertain and advocate for that child’s preferred outcome in the termination petition.
We argued that Tyshon's sentence is a de facto life sentence that provides no meaningful opportunity for release in violation of Miller's requirement that youth and its attendant characteristics be considered before imposing such a sentence.
We argued that the Eighth Amendment requires the sentencer to determine that a juvenile offender is permanently incorrigible before imposing a sentence of life without parole in order to give effect to the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Miller and Montgomery and to ensure that juvenile life without parole sentences are truly rare. We further argued that requiring a finding of permanent incorrigibility helps root out racial bias in sentencing and ensures meaningful appellate review.
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