By: Halee Snellgrove Maturin
In 1963, here in East Baton Rouge, 17-year-old Henry Montgomery was found guilty of murdering a police officer, Charles Hurt. While he was initially sentenced to death, the judge declared a mistrial and as a result of this second trial, Montgomery was found guilty without capital punishment. Under then-existing Louisiana law, this verdict required the trial court to impose an automatic sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Almost 50 years after Montgomery’s life sentence, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Miller v. Alabama, in which they held that imposing mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the 8th Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Miller now requires that sentencing courts consider the juvenile’s age, diminished culpability, and heightened capacity for change and reform when determining their sentence. (more…)
By: Bill Schulz
As the Paul M. Hebert Law Center’s academic year fades from fall into spring, its direction and leadership for presumably the next several years is now being determined. Specifically, a new administrative head of the Law Center will be appointed before the end of the spring semester. The deanship is a new position created in the wake of the campus reorganization that saw the Law Center merged back into the main campus; it had been an autonomous institution with its own chancellor until 2015.
The new dean will face a number of challenges immediately upon assuming office. First, the ongoing budget crises that have plagued Louisiana higher education for the past several years will continue to affect the Law Center, albeit indirectly as a result of any cuts to the Louisiana State University system’s budget. Second, the new dean will need to grapple with recent faculty resolutions regarding diversity matters. Finally, the overall direction of the Law Center and its educational program looms large, as the civil and comparative law portion of the law degree becomes optional, and the balance between producing practice-ready attorneys trained by experienced practitioners and legal researchers trained by highly skilled scholars must be reset. Related to this last issue is the need to maintain a relatively high first time bar passage rate and exceptionally high employment figures for recent graduates. (more…)
By: Bill Schulz
One of the most talked-about issues this election season is criminal justice reform. While the specifics vary from candidate to candidate, there is rising, bipartisan support for widespread changes to the way the criminal justice system works in America. Among the changes being considered is the idea that reintegrating those convicted of crimes into the community’s economic environment will help rehabilitate them while also reducing the rate of recidivism. The United States Department of Justice has recently published the results of a five-year study of recidivism rates amongst those released from prison in 2005 across thirty different states. The DOJ concluded that by 2010 nearly 80% had been rearrested and nearly 60% had been convicted of new offenses. This is catastrophic and suggests that once convicted, many inmates face a depressingly predictable future of rearrest and subsequent return to prison with little time spent gainfully contributing to society. A possible solution to this problem, as noted above, is the assisted reintegration of released offenders into society. A key element to this reintegration is gainful employment. This factor is understood to be critical to avoiding future criminal behavior. This assumption though, while backed by socioeconomic research, is not without controversy, as three separate studies have demonstrated. (more…)