Miscellaneous: Racial Justice Amicus and Appellate Strategies

The cases below use disparities data to inform statutory and policy arguments. While they do not relate to a specific Constitutional claim, they may be instructive in a variety of legal contexts. 


The brief argued that the Maryland Juvenile Justice Reform Act’s provision setting age 13 as the minimum age for juvenile justice system involvement must be applied retroactively. Since the Act itself recognized a goal of race equity, the brief highlighted that the racial and ethnic disparities in adjudications supported this interpretation of the statute.  

The brief argued that a certification to adult court that pushes a child into detention is not harmless, and that release is the only appropriate remedy. The brief highlighted that the error caused particular harm to youth of color, and particularly Black youth, given how legislation pushing youth into the adult system was based on the racist myth of the superpredator, and in light of the persistent bias and discrimination that plays into transfer decisions. 

The brief argued that ordering a young person into out of home placement contravenes the letter and purpose of Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Act. We further argued that meaningful and timely appellate review of such decisions is needed to curtail the disproportionate harm of out-of-home placement to youth of color and youth with disabilities.  

The brief highlighted that addressing overcrowding in Philadelphia’s detention center requires releasing more youth into the community. The brief emphasized the harms of out-of-home placements, and specifically the disproportionate harm that such placements have on youth of color and youth with disabilities. The brief also highlighted the available and effective alternatives to detention. 

The brief argued that because adolescents are uniquely vulnerable when plea bargaining, their decision to accept a guilty plea when in adult criminal court should not also deprive them of the right to appeal an underlying probable cause determination. We highlighted that preventing a youth who pleads guilty from appealing such decisions would disproportionately impact Black youth, who are more likely to be transferred to the adult criminal system.