Our brief urged the Court to adopt an Excessive Fines Clause proportionality test that accounts for individual circumstances, including youth. We argued that a one-size-fits-all test for excessive fines will have devastating impacts on youth due to their diminished culpability and lowered ability to pay, and will disproportionately harm Black, Brown, and Indigenous youth.
United States District Court, Middle District of Florida •
Juvenile Law Center, with co-counsel Holland & Knight LLP, filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on behalf of over 100 individuals incarcerated in Florida who were sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18, but who are destined to die in prison because of the unconstitutional rules, policies, and practices of the Florida parole system.
Our amicus brief argued that the sentence for contempt of court ignored A Juvenile's status as a child, and that both the sentence and underlying bail order showed racial, gender, and dependency status bias.
Amici argued that the mandatory imposition of life without parole on emerging adults violates the Eighth Amendment and the Illinois Constitution. We argued that emerging adults possess the same developmental characteristics of youth that were relied upon in Roper and its progeny, and are thus less deserving of the harshest punishments. Our brief also emphasized the growing statewide, national, and international consensus that the line between childhood and adulthood should be set above 18.
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.
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.
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