Will Amy Coney Barrett protect the constitutional rights of children and youth?

Marsha Levick, Esq. and Riya Saha Shah, Esq. , The Pennsylvania Capital-Star •
President Trump clapping for a smiling Amy Coney Barrett

As the U.S. Senate continues its mad dash to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett for a life term on the United States Supreme Court, not one senator has questioned how youth might fare under this Court.

While she has a scant record on issues concerning children, her originalist judicial philosophy – tethered to her late mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia — makes it clear that, if confirmed, Barrett could undo critical Supreme Court rulings of the last 15 years which substantially advanced and protected children’s rights. In a series of cases involving sentencing, police interrogation and school searches, the court has repeatedly recognized that children are different and that children’s constitutional rights must reflect and adapt to those differences.

In 2005, in Roper v Simmons, the court categorically banned the death penalty for all youth under 18, citing emerging science proving key developmental differences between children and adults that diminished youth’s blameworthiness for even the most heinous criminal conduct.

In the years following, the court also banned life without parole sentences for youth convicted of non-homicide offenses in Graham v Florida and mandatory life without parole sentences for youth convicted of homicide in Miller v Alabama. 

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

About the Expert

Marsha Levick co-founded Juvenile Law Center in 1975. Throughout her legal career, Levick has been an advocate for children’s and women's rights and is a nationally recognized expert in juvenile law.

Riya leads the organization’s work on juvenile record confidentiality and expungement. She has written extensively on collateral consequences, expungement, and the right to counsel, and was instrumental in Pennsylvania’s successful challenge to the imposition of harsh registration laws for youth charged with sexual offenses.