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High Court's Montgomery Ruling Fuels Demand For Pro Bono


Kathleen Wach, along with two other members of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, co-authored an article discussing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Miller v. Alabama and its impact on the demand for pro bono legal services. The Supreme Court held in Miller that sentencing juveniles to mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against disproportionate sentencing schemes. "But the Miller decision left one question unanswered: What about the 1,000-plus children who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole prior to Miller? Should the Supreme Court's holding be applied retroactively or not?" the authors said. Shortly after Miller in 2012, the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY) coordinated with Washington, DC and Virginia law firms, seeking pro bono counsel for the juveniles in the Commonwealth.

"As previously sentenced juvenile lifers find themselves back in court for another sentencing hearing, the need for trained, qualified pro bono attorneys is greater now than ever -- particularly in stale cases that will require extensive investigation to present the evidence contemplated by Miller," the authors said. "With training and support from CFSY and defender networks nationwide, pro bono lawyers will play an important role in seeking justice on behalf of these vulnerable juvenile offenders."

Miller & Chevalier lawyers serve as pro bono counsel to two individuals in Virginia and Pennsylvania, who are challenging their life-without-parole sentences pursuant to the Montgomery decision, which established that all juveniles sentenced to life terms under mandatory schemes prior to Miller must have their sentences modified.