Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court's grant of summary judgment in a suit against employees of a juvenile home, concluding that the district court erred by holding as a matter of law that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff alleged that defendants violated his constitutional rights by housing him in prolonged solitary confinement, failing to educate him, and allowing him to be sexually abused. In this case, the district court addressed only the fact of juvenile court supervision in determining that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, and its opinion did not contain sufficient detail to allow the court to review whether defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Bradford v. Avery" on Justia Law

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Defendant, originally adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for assault of a federal officer, appealed the district court's imposition of a combination of official detention and juvenile delinquent supervision following revocation of his prior supervision term. Defendant argues that the total combined term of detention and supervision exceeds the maximum possible term under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA), 18 U.S.C. 5031 et seq. The court agreed and held that the maximum term of supervision that a court may impose under section 5037(d)(6) is determined by the requirements in section 5037(d)(2), using the juvenile's age at the time of the revocation hearing. As a result, the maximum total period of detention and supervision that may be imposed upon revocation of a previously imposed term of supervision for a juvenile who is under age 21 at the time of revocation is (i) 3 years, (ii) the top of the Guidelines range that would have applied to a similarly situated adult defendant unless the court finds an aggravating factor to warrant an upward departure, or (iii) the maximum term of imprisonment that would be authorized if the juvenile had been tried and convicted as an adult, whichever is least, "less the term of official detention ordered." Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions. View "United States v. E.T.H." on Justia Law

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In 2009, a jury found Thompson guilty of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of first-degree murder while committing aggravated robbery. Thompson was 17 when he committed the crimes. Pursuant to Minnesota law, he received two consecutive mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of release. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed Thompson’s convictions and sentences on direct appeal. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court (Miller decision) held that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders. Thompson sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The district court dismissed with prejudice, finding that Miller’s rule was not retroactively applicable. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Miller did not announce a new substantive rule because it neither categorically barred a punishment nor placed a group of persons beyond the state’s power to punish. After Miller, as before, a court retains the power to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole. That the sentence now must be discretionary does not alter its substance. View "Thompson v. Roy" on Justia Law

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A Minnesota jury convicted Martin of first-degree murder, committed at age 17. Martin received a mandatory life sentence without possibility of release. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed and rejected a challenge to the jury’s composition under Batson. Martin filed a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. While it was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court held that mandatory life sentences without parole for defendants who commit homicide before age 18 violate the Eighth Amendment. Martin argued that Miller applied retroactively to him. The district court denied the petition. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Miller does not apply retroactively on collateral review. The Minnesota Supreme Court did not unreasonably determine that the trial court properly rejected Martin’s Batson challenge. View "Martin v. Symmes" on Justia Law

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D.J.M., a student in the Hannibal Public School District #60 (district), sent instant messages from his home to a classmate in which he talked about getting a gun and shooting some other students at school. After D.J.M. was subsequently suspended for ten days and later for the remainder of the school year as a result of his actions, D.J.M.'s parents sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the district violated D.J.M.'s First Amendment rights. At issue was whether the district court properly granted summary judgment to the district on D.J.M.'s constitutional claims and remanded his state claim for administrative review. The court held that D.J.M. intentionally communicated his threats to a third party and the district court did not err in finding that they were true threats. The court also held that true threats were not protected under the First Amendment and the district was given enough information that it reasonably feared D.J.M. had access to a handgun and was thinking about shooting specific classmates at the high school. Therefore, in light of the district's obligation to ensure the safety of its students and reasonable concerns created by shooting deaths at other schools, the district court did not err in concluding that the district did not violate the First Amendment by notifying the police and subsequently suspending him after he was placed in juvenile detention. The court further held that it was reasonably foreseeable that D.J.M.'s threats would be brought to the attention of school authorities and created a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment. The court finally held that it was not an abuse of discretion to dismiss the state law claim as moot. Accordingly, the judgment of the court was affirmed.

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Defendant, 16 years-old at the time, appealed his juvenile delinquency conviction on two counts of aggravated assault of his four year old nephew (J.D.). On appeal, defendant contended that J.D.'s refusal to identify him as the perpetrator created ipso facto reasonable doubt as to his guilt, and thus rendered the district court's judgment unsupported by the evidence. The court held that there was nothing in the record to suggest that the district court's credibility determination was so erroneous as to merit reversal and combining this credibility assessment with the other evidence in the record, the court found that defendant's conviction was supported by sufficient evidence. Therefore, a reasonable fact-finder could find that defendant was guilty on this evidence and thus, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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Appellant pleaded guilty to three counts of bank robbery and one count of aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. At issue was whether the district court properly assessed too many criminal history points for appellant's juvenile sentences because they were not "sentence[s] to confinement" under U.S.S.G. 4A1.2(d)(2)(A). The court held that the district court properly assessed appellant's criminal history points where that court heard uncontested testimony that appellant was confined and not free to leave while at certain juvenile facilities. Accordingly, the sentence was affirmed.

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Appellant petitioned for his son's transfer to Israel for custody adjudication alleging that his son had been wrongfully detained in Iowa by the child's mother. At issue was whether the district court erred in finding that the parties' intention was to make Iowa the habitual residence where the district court emphasized the son's perspective that the settled purpose of his relocation to Iowa was to reside there habitually. The court held that the district court did not err in finding that the parties' intent at the time of the move was to make Iowa the son's habitual residence whether the district court emphasized the son's perspective or the parents' perspectives; that the parties maintained no home in Israel after coming to Iowa and appellant spent two months closing down his business before rejoining his family in the United States; that it appeared that the family did intend to "abandon" Israel; and any agreement of the pair to return to Israel would have involved staying in the United States for the indefinite amount of time it would take the mother to finish her doctorate.

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After a jury found defendant guilty of various federal sex crimes, the district court sentenced her to 120 months in prison and the court reversed the sentence, holding that it was unreasonable. The Supreme Court subsequently granted defendant's petition for a writ of certiorari and vacated the judgment and remanded for reconsideration in light of Pepper v. United States. The court again vacated the 120 month sentence and remanded for resentencing where the district court could consider evidence of postsentencing rehabilitation on defendant's part, including, but not limited to, any rehabilitation after sentencing. The court also ordered the district court to ensure the child victim received any restitution to which she was entitled from defendant.