Our brief argued that sentencing youth to life in prison under an accountability theory both defies adolescent brain development research and contravenes the Eighth Amendment. We further argued that imposing such a sentence violates the mandates of Miller v. Alabama, and that the sentencing court failed to properly consider youth and its attendant characteristics.
Amici argued that adopting the defendants’ interpretation would “cut an essential, firmly established lifeline for vulnerable Americans,” including the millions of children who depend on federally funded, state-administered services.
We joined a brief arguing that increased surveillance of families by child welfare systems does not lead to better outcomes for children and emphasized the many harms of family separation and child welfare system involvement to children. We further emphasized that the new directive will disproportionately harm transgender youth as well as communities that already face high rates of investigation and involvement, including families experiencing poverty, families of color, and parents with disabilities.
The brief argued that ICWA safeguards the constitutional rights at stake in child welfare proceedings for Indian children, including protecting families from unwarranted state intervention and preserving the constitutional right to family integrity. The brief further argued that ICWA aligns with state courts’ efforts to serve the best interests of Indian children and provides critical information and support to state courts.
Our brief argued that preserving the privilege of child welfare records is essential to the core functions of the dependency system, including DHS’s legal obligation to provide adequate mental health care to the children in its custody. We further argued that Oregon's privilege law provides vital protection for families facing DHS involvement, a function that is crucial given the fundamental liberty interests at stake in dependency proceedings, the high potential for harm to children and parents caused by system involvement, and the disproportionate impact of the system on communities of color.
In an important win the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that “a minor’s refusal to confess to an act for which he or she might be criminally prosecuted as an adult may not be considered when deciding whether to certify a case for transfer between juvenile and adult court.”
The brief argued that Mr. Aston's sentence is unconstitutional under Miller v. Alabama, as he could not have been sentenced to anything less severe than life without parole. The brief further argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Jones v. Mississippi does not affect the unconstitutionality of Mr. Aston’s natural life sentence under Miller and does not reflect a change in controlling law.
Our brief argued that because adolescents are uniquely vulnerable when plea bargaining, their decisions should not waive their ability to challenge the underlying transfer. We further argued that limiting the right to appeal an underlying probable cause determination will disproportionately impact Black youth, who are more likely to be transferred to the adult criminal system.
We argued that Jamie’s prior counsel failed to represent her effectively during her decertification proceeding. Among other failures, Jamie’s prior counsel failed to investigate, develop, or present to the court the substantial evidence demonstrating that Jamie was highly amenable to treatment in the juvenile system, including evidence of the emotionally and physically abusive nature of her relationship. The petition further argued that Jamie’s guilty plea was not knowing or voluntary due to her prior counsel’s errors during the guilty plea and sentencing process.
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