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. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.