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Professors Weigh In on the U.S. Supreme Court's Juvenile Sentencing and Immigration Decisions

June 26, 2012

Senior Associate Dean Daniel Filler and Professor Lisa McElroy shared their thoughts with the news media on two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. 

In The Morning Call, Senior Associate Dean Daniel Filler applauded a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory life without parole sentencing for juveniles convicted of murder. 

In the decision, the court said mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment," stating that a judge and jury should be allowed to consider "mitigating circumstances" when sentencing juvenile assailants. 

Filler, an expert in juvenile justice law and the development of criminal law, approved of the decision commenting that the ruling "reflects the research about the cognitive development of children that their decision-making is not the same as adults"

Professor Lisa McElroy also discussed the sentencing decision on June 25's AirTalk, a program on National Public Radio affiliate Southern California Public Radio.  McElroy similarly commented that the court's decision to strike down mandatory sentencing where juveniles commit murder appropriately employed scientific data about the cognitive development of juveniles. 

McElroy also provided her thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down components of Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law.  In the 5-3 split decision, the court found it unconstitutional for Arizona to criminalize immigrants applying for or holding a job, require immigrants carry immigration papers or arrest an individual on the assumption that he or she has committed a crime that could lead to deportation. 

While the court upheld a provision which allows police officers with reasonable cause to request immigration papers from individuals, McElroy said that the decision will still have far-reaching effects because the court clearly and confidently expressed that immigration issues are federal functions, thereby preempting state law.  McElroy added that this decision will have an impact on other states, requiring them to tailor back laws similar to the Arizona law.