We argued that both the mandatory transfer into adult court and the imposition of a mandatory life sentence on a juvenile violate due process and the Eighth Amendment by precluding any analysis of the mitigating characteristics of youth, as required by Miller. Our brief further argued that mandatory statutory schemes create the risk of a disparate effect on youth of color.
Juvenile Law Center joined the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender as co-counsel for James in his appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania challenging James's Assault by Life Prisoner sentence as unconstitutional because the underlying predicate sentence was unconstitutional.
We argued that the interpretation of California Penal Code Section 26 in J.E.’s case was arbitrary and racially biased. We further argued that J.E. was improperly perceived as older and more culpable for her conduct because she is Black. We also emphasized that, at thirteen years old, J.E. was not developmentally capable of regulating her emotions in stressful situations, and that she behaved as a reasonable Black child would who had no personal experience with law enforcement.
Amici argued that Mr. Brooks’s 90-year minimum de facto life sentence is disproportionate and unconstitutional under the both the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 14 of the Washington Constitution and must be considered in the context of severe race disproportionality among those serving lengthy sentences and life sentences.
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.