SCOTUS rules on immigration case, life sentences for juveniles

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The U.S. Supreme Court Monday affirmed in part and reversed in part Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The justices also found that a life sentence without possibility of parole for juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment.

In Arizona, et al. v. United States, 11-182, Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion for the court. Only four provisions of the law were at issue. The majority found sections 3, 5(C) and 6 of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 are pre-empted by federal law.

Section 3, which makes failure to comply with federal alien registration requirements a state misdemeanor, “intrudes on the field of alien registration, a field in which Congress has left no room for States to regulate,” the opinion states. The criminal penalty in Section 5(C), a section that makes it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the state, “stands as an obstacle to the federal regulatory system.” Section 6, which authorizes officers to arrest without a warrant someone “the officer has probable cause to believe … has committed any public offense that makes the person removable” from the U.S. also creates an obstacle to federal law by authorizing state and local officers to make warrantless arrests of certain aliens suspected of being removable.

The justices also decided it was improper to enjoin Section 2(B) before the state courts had an opportunity to construe it and without showing that the section’s enforcement actually conflicts with federal immigration law and its objectives. Section 2(B) requires officers conducting a stop, detention or arrest to make efforts in some circumstances to verify the person’s immigration status with the federal government.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined Kennedy’s opinion. Justices Antoin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Elena Kagan didn’t participate.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of homicides.

The decision comes in Miller v. Alabama, 10-9646, in which juvenile Miller and his friend beat Miller’s neighbor and set fire to his trailer after doing drugs and drinking. The neighbor died. Miller was in adult court on a charge of murder in the course of arson. He was found guilty and the trial court imposed a statutorily mandated life without parole. The Alabama appeals court affirmed. The companion case to Miller is Jackson v. Hobbs, director Arkansas Dept. of Correction, 10-9647, in which Jackson, who was 14, received a mandatory term of life in prison without possibility of parole after being convicted of murder.

The majority cited caselaw that established children are constitutionally different from adults for sentencing purposes and those rulings show the flaws of imposing mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole on juvenile homicide offenders.

Kagan delivered the court’s opinion and was joined by Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor. Bryer and Sotomayor also concurred in a separate opinion. Roberts dissented and was joined by Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Thomas and Alito also wrote dissenting opinions.

The Supreme Court also decided American Tradition Partnership, Inc., et al. v. Steve Bullock, Attorney General of Montana, et al., 11-1179. The Supreme Court of Montana was summarily reversed 5-4 on its ruling regarding a state law that a “corporation may not make … an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or political party.” The state supreme court rejected the claim that the statute violates the First Amendment.

The justices found that Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010), applies to the Montana law. Citizens United struck down a similar federal law, holding that political speech does not lose First Amendment protection just because it’s source is a corporation.

Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan dissented. They said they would vote to grant the petition for certiorari in order to reconsider Citizens United, or at least, its application in this case. Instead they voted to deny it because they did not believe Citizens United would be reconsidered by the court.

The much anticipated health care rulings will likely come Thursday, as the court announced it will sit again this week.



  • LWOP for juveniles was not struck down
    The Miller case did not rule that life imprisonment without parole is unconstitutional. Rather it held that such statutes are unconstitutional only when they make LWOP mandatory without allowing the sentencer to consider facts such as the defendant's age.

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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.