Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

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Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for a nonhomicide offense he committed at the age of sixteen. After Graham v. Florida was decided, petitioner sought postconviction relief but the state courts denied it. The court concluded that petitioner's state court adjudication constituted an unreasonable application of Graham where Virginia courts unreasonably ignored the plain language of the procedures governing review of petitions for geriatric release, which authorize the State Parole Board to deny geriatric release for any reason, without considering a juvenile offender’s maturity and rehabilitation. In light of the lack of governing standards, the court concluded that it was objectively unreasonable for the state courts to conclude that geriatric release affords petitioner with the “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation” Graham demands. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of habeas relief and remanded so that petitioner can be resentenced in accordance with Graham and the Eighth Amendment. View "LeBlanc v. Mathena" on Justia Law

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Movant was convicted of conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances and sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without parole. He was 17 years old when the conspiracy began and the conspiracy continued until he had turned 18. After the Supreme Court issued its decision in Miller v. Alabama, movant filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255(h) seeking authorization to file a successive section 2255 motion. The court denied the motion, concluding that, even assuming that movant qualified as a juvenile offender, his proposed motion would necessarily rely on a right that became available to him in 2010 with the Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Florida, which held that sentencing a juvenile who did not commit a homicide to life imprisonment without parole violated the Eighth Amendment, and not on Miller, which extended the Graham rule to prohibit mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of committing homicide. Because Graham was decided more than one year before movant filed his section 2255(h) motion, the successive section 2255 motion he sought leave to file would be barred by the applicable one year statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. 2255(f)(3). View "In re: Tadd Vassell" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a juvenile, appealed from the judgment of the district court which imposed, as a condition of his juvenile delinquent supervision, that he register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16901 et seq. The court held that the district court did not err by imposing the sex offender registration condition because the court concluded that Congress, in enacting SORNA, intentionally carved out a class of juveniles from the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act's, 18 U.S.C. 5031 et seq., confidentiality provisions, and that SORNA's registration requirements were not punitive as applied to defendant. View "United States v. Under Seal" on Justia Law

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Appellees, the parents of a child with moderate-to-severe autism, filed due process proceedings against the Sumter County School District #17 ("District") seeking a determination that the District did not provide a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE") to the child as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1)(A). At issue was whether the district court erred by concluding that the District failed to provide the child with a FAPE and that the program established by the child's parents to educate him at home was appropriate. The court held that that the district court did not err in concluding that the District failed to provide the child with FAPE for the 2005-2006 school year where the district court considered the evidence of the child's small improvements in a few tested areas against the District's conceded failure to provide the hours of therapy required for the child, the evidence that the lead teacher and aides did not understand or use proper techniques, and the evidence that it took one teacher months of working with the child to correct the problems caused by the improper techniques. The court also held that the district court did not err by finding that the District was not capable of providing FAPE to the child where the District's evidence was not compelling enough to establish it's improved capabilities at the time of the due process hearing. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support the district court's findings that the home placement was reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits.