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Supreme Court Holds Mandatory Life Without Parole for Juveniles Violates 8th Amendment, and Arizona Immigration Law Is Mostly Preempted; Grants Cert on Question of Plain Error Review

This morning, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Miller v. Alabama (No. 10-9646), holding that mandatory life without parole for thouse under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendement's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.  The Court also issued its highly-anticipated ruling on the Arizona immigration law in Arizona v. United States (No. 11-182), invalidating three of the four provisions before it. 

In addition, the Court also granted certiorari in Henderson v. United States (No. 11-9307) to address the penalty enhancement provision of 21 U.S.C. § 851.

In Miller v. Alabama, decided together with Jackson v. Hobbs (No. 10-9647), the majority opinion focused on the harshness of a sentencing scheme that prevented individualized sentencing for defendants facing the most serious penalties.  For more on Miller see this Sentencing Law and Policy Post, and this SCOTUSblog post.  

The Court's opinon on the Arizona immigration law struck down as federally preempted all but one provision before it: the provision which requires police to check the immigration status of persons whom they detain before releasing them and which allows police to stop and detain anyone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant.  Summaries and analyses of the opinion from numerous commentators can be found on the Arizona v. United States case page on SCOTUSblog. 

In Henderson v. United States the petition raises the question: When the governing law is unsettled at the time of trial but settled in the defendant’s favor by the time of appeal, should an appellate court reviewing for plain error apply the time-of-appeal standard of Johnson v. United States, 520 U.S. 461 (1997), as the First, Second, Sixth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits do, or should the appellate court apply the Ninth Circuit’s time-of-trial standard, which the D.C. Circuit and the panel below have adopted?

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