WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE POPE, AND DONALD TRUMP WHO ALSO ONCE SAID IT WAS "REALLY GREAT". POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

LIFE FOR JUVENILES

The US Supreme Court on Monday took up the arguments in two cases examining the constitutionality of life in prison for juvenile offenders who commit non-homicide offenses. The cases argued were Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida.

In both cases the Petitioners were Florida inmates sentenced to life in prison as juveniles for offenses that did not involve murder.

One issue that obviously plagued the jurists was where do you draw the line and why? It seems arbitrary to create a bright line rule prohibiting life in prison without parole for juveniles who commit serious offenses a day before their eighteenth birthday and allowing life in prison for people who commit serious felonies and the day after their eighteenth birthday. This was evidenced by the following question:


JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: But you haven't answered

Justice Alito's point, which is: What's the difference

between a month before he's 18 and a month after? What

makes us more capable at the 18th birthday to -- to

affirm a judgment that someone can't be -- can't be rehabilitated?


The Petitioner's answer seems to us weak- that you have to draw the line somewhere and society has drawn it at age 18. And that was just what Justice Scalia was waiting for:

JUSTICE SCALIA: A line has to be drawn

somewhere only if we accept your approach that there has

to be a categorical exemption. A line does not have to

be drawn somewhere if you adopt the approach of case by

case decide whether this is proportional, given how old

the individual was, given the nature of the crimes and

all of the other factors. You don't have to draw a line

then, and that's the attraction of that approach.


But bless her ACLU soul, Justice Ginsberg was  waiting with an answer:



JUSTICE GINSBURG: You see, how do you answer the argument that unlike an adult, because of the immaturity, you can't really judge a person -- judge a teenager at the point of sentencing? That it's only after a period of time has gone by, and you see: Has this person overcome those youthful disabilities? That's why a proportionality review on the spot doesn't accommodate the -- what is the driving force of the -your -- the Petitioner's argument is you can't make a

judgment until years later to see how that person has --

has done.



And that's the problem here- on the one side the argument against drawing the line at 18 years of age is that you should just legislate that age is a factor that must be taken into consideration and then you don't have to worry on what side of the 18th birthday the defendant committed the crime on. But that approach still allows for the imprisonment of life without parole for juveniles. So on the other side you ask the court to draw a bright line at age 18.


It seems to us both approaches work well together- you draw a bright line and still require sentencing judges to take age into consideration. That approach plus adding mandatory parole for all juveniles sentenced to more than ten years in prison solves all the issues at hand.


What say you?



9 comments:

Miguel M. de la O said...

I assume you mean mandatory parole eligibility for all juveniles sentenced to over 10 years. You're not advocating the mandatory automatic paroling of juveniles after 10 years in prison, are you?

Rumpole said...

Yes De La Over- I just want to see parol as an option/availability- I agree certain horrible crimes will unfortunately require life in prison for juveniles.

Additionally, we really should bring back parole for all cases in Florida, and if you're old enough do you remember when Judges retained jurisdiction so parole requests came back to them to review? That worked well.

On another topic I would like to solicit your opinion- what about the system that allows either side one anonymous strike of the judge assigned to a case? California has that system. A judge gets a case- and atty-either side can send a notice to the clerk and the case is re-assigned randomly- the other side can then do the same thing- and then you're stuck with the third judge. There would be a time limit of 30 days after the case is assigned- and I think it would give a great view as to what judges are disliked by both sides.

What is your opinion on that?

Anonymous said...

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Place: Finnegans on the River
Time: 5:30 pm

Come show your support for Judge Walsh.

Fake Sal The Stockbroker said...

This thread is way too serious and legal for me. STERN RULES!!!.....BABA BOEY!!!!

Anonymous said...

By the line of Kennedy's questioning, it would appear that the plaintiffs will lose this landmark case. Maybe Alito will throw us another curve ball.

real fake blecher said...

I'm the first one to come up with "WTF" on the internet.

Just sayin....

Anonymous said...

They draw arbitrary bright lines related to age all the time. to drink, to vote, to drive, marry , fuck. what is the problem with drawing one as to when a person is eligible for a life sentence? is Scalia in effect saying that the age of CONSENT should be on a sliding scale case by case basis? how old are his law clerks anyway?
Jason Grey

Anonymous said...

ZZZZZZZZZ

Anonymous said...

Query !!!
Should a candidate for judicial office(by appointment or election),i.e., M. de la O, be debating sentencing or parole policy in a public forum?