The amicus curiae, or amicus briefs, is a legal term meaning "friend of the court." This 'friend' is a person or organization offering the court additional information or perspective about the case. AACAP often is approached and sometimes joins relevant amicus briefs. Below are some recent cases in which AACAP has participated.
U.S. Supreme Court Decision Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs (June, 25 2012)
In March 2012, AACAP and the American Medical Association submitted an amici curiae brief based on the science of adolescent behavior and brain development in support of two cases before the Supreme Court, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs. Both cases involved juveniles convicted of homicide crimes and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The brief asserts that the sentence of mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. The brief showed that adolescents behave differently because their brains are not fully developed and exhibit functional differences from mature, adult brains.
The Court agreed in a 5-4 decision Justice Kagan wrote for the majority that "Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features - among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences." This decision builds on prior rulings where the Court struck down harsh sentences for youth, citing their developmental and neurological differences from adults.
The Supreme Court's ruling on Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs can be found online at:
U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Life without Parole for Juveniles, Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida (May 17, 2010)
In July 2009, AACAP and the American Medical Association submitted an amici curiae brief outlining the scientific evidence regarding the structural and functional brain development of adolescents in support of two cases before the Supreme Court, Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida. Both cases involved juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole during the period where Florida had abolished its parole system; therefore, a life sentence left no option for release at a later date. On May 17, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on life without parole for juveniles.
The Court dismissed Sullivan, but reached a 6-3 decision in Graham against the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole for crimes other than homicide. Part of the Court's decision was based on the medical evidence that AACAP members, Christopher Thomas, M.D., Louis Kraus, M.D., and David Fassler, M.D., contributed to the brief. Citing impulse control, reward sensitivity, and emotional regulation as behavioral development that adolescents have not yet fully acquired, the brief explained that the "brain's frontal lobes are still structurally immature well into late adolescence and the prefrontal cortex is one of the last brain regions to mature." The brief added that the brain continues "to develop between adolescence and young adulthood," making the decision-making process different from that of an adult, which has a direct effect on the understanding of actions and consequences.
Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy stated that "[t]he Constitution prohibits the imposition of life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. A State need not guarantee the offender eventual release, but if it imposes a sentence of life it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term." To supplement the Court's reasoning, Kennedy noted that "[a]s petitioner's amici point out, developments in psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds. For example, parts of the brain involved in behavior control continue to mature through late adolescence." Kennedy concluded that "[w]hat the State must do...is give defendants like Graham some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation," although eventual release is not required.
The Supreme Court's ruling on Graham v. Florida can be found online at:
Roper v. Simmons (March 1, 2005)
The amicus brief argument states, "Science confirms that adolescent offenders at the ages of 16 and 17 exhibit deficiencies this Court has identified as warranting exclusion from the death penalty."
The adolescent's mind works differently from ours. Parents know it. This Court has said it. Legislatures have presumed it for decades or more. And now, new scientific evidence sheds light on the differences. Scientists have documented the differences along several dimensions. Adolescents as a group, even at the age of 16 or 17, are more impulsive than adults. They underestimate risks and overvalue short-term benefits. They are more susceptible to stress, more emotionally volatile, and less capable of controlling their emotions than adults. In short, the average adolescent cannot be expected to act with the same control or foresight as a mature adult.
The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed. The judgment of the Missouri Supreme Court setting aside the sentence of death imposed upon Christopher Simmons is affirmed. Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined. O'Connor, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Thomas, J., joined.
J.K., a minor by and through R.K., et al. v. Catherine Eden, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, et al (March 2001)
The AACAP submitted this brief to assist the court in its evaluation of the adequacy of care provided by the state of Arizona in Maricopa County, Arizona to Medicaid-eligible children and adolescents in need of mental health services.
The amicus brief and background state that the number of children with mental disabilities continues to grow. Studies conducted by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment estimate that mental impairment is present in 12 percent of the 63 million American children under age 18. Nearly half of these 7.5 million children are considered severely disordered or handicapped by their impairment. Among inner-city children, who are often exposed to severe social and financial deprivation, the rate of mental disability is even higher. Children burdened by poverty and disability are frequently eligible for Medicaid as a consequence of their participation in other programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
The Plaintiffs and Defendants, CATHERINE R. EDEN, in her official capacity as Director of Arizona Department of Health Services ("ADHS"), LESLIE SCHWALBE, in her official capacity as Deputy Director, Division of Behavioral Health Services ("DBHS") and PHYLLIS BIEDESS, in her official capacity as Director of Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System ("AHCCCS") intend this Settlement Agreement to be legally binding and enforceable by this Court. The parties understand and agree that until such time as this action is dismissed pursuant to paragraph 81, the Court's jurisdiction will continue for the purpose of enforcing, should it become necessary, the obligations of the parties under this Settlement Agreement.
Joseph Ray, Jacob Austin, Nicholas James, Matthew William, and Samantha Josephine Bonfield v. The Hamilton County Court of Appeals, First Appellate District (September 2001)
This amicus brief was submitted in support of Appellants regarding: (1) the necessity to children of a legally recognized relations between children and the persons who support and nurture them, regardless of whether the parents comprise an opposite sex couple or a same sex couple; (2) the ability of lesbians and gay men to raise children who are as health and well-adjusted as children raised in other families; and (3) the falsity of certain common myths about lesbians and gay men.
Children benefit greatly by legal recognition of the child-parent relationship. This benefit accrues regardless of whether the legal foundation is established by birth, statutory or equitable adoptions, a shared parenting order as sought by the parents in the case, or any other legal or equitable procedure. Children benefit psychologically through legal protection of their relationships with primary caregivers, with disruptions of these relationships causing serious developmental and emotional trauma. Children also benefit materially through additional health care choices, child support, and death benefits.
Although we have concluded that existing Ohio law does not permit Teri and Shelly to enter into a shared-parenting plan, we do not intend to discredit their goal of providing a stable environment for the children's growth. Our respect for such a goal does not, however, provide us with an appropriate basis for disregarding the relevant statutory language. It is for the legislature, not this court, to recognize a broader definition of "parent" than that currently contained in the Revised Code.
In their second assignment of error, Teri and Shelly assert that the trial court violated Teri's fundamental constitutional right to direct the upbringing of her children by dismissing her petition. We reject this assignment of error in that the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of one's children does not embrace the right to have all such decisions [*10] recognized or approved in law. In other words, although Teri's decision to "co-parent" her children with Shelly may be protected from interference by the state, she is not entitled to the benefit of laws that are, at present, clearly inapplicable to such a "familial" arrangement. The second assignment of error is overruled, and the judgment of the trial court is affirmed. Judgment affirmed.
Morgan Victor Manduley, et al, petitioners v. Superior Court of the State of California, for San Diego County, respondent (February 2001)
The brief submitted by the Petitioners addresses the broad range of legal questions presented by this case, including, in part, why the choice between adult criminal prosecution and juvenile civil proceedings is a sentencing decision reserved to the authority of the courts. This issue is critical to the resolution of the separation of powers question presented on this appeal. As both California courts to address the issue have recognized, whether Section 707(d) of the Welfare and Institutions Code violates separation of powers principles depends on whether this "choice given to the district attorney - is in its nature a charging decision that is properly allocated to the executive branch or is instead a sentencing decision that is properly allocated to the judicial branch."
Since the inception of the juvenile system, the decision whether to subject a youth to criminal adult trial or civil juvenile proceedings has been made by courts and based on a determination of whether a youth has behaved like a sophisticated criminal or has history of criminal behavior, and whether the youth is likely amendable to efforts at rehabilitation. These factors, in turn, depend on complex evidentiary considerations about youth psychology, background and behavior that Amici organizations encounter every day. Because of the complexity and the individualized nature of the "fitness" determination, courts have long been empowered to take evidence, hear testimony, and impartially balance competing concerns on the subject before a juvenile may be subject to the jurisdiction of an adult court.
There are three criteria for severability: the invalid provision must be grammatically, functionally, and volitionally separable. We conclude section 707(d) is severable under these criteria. First, section 707(d) is mechanically and grammatically severable. It constitutes a distinct and separate provision of Proposition 21 that can be removed as a whole without affecting the wording of any provision other than section 26 of the initiative. Second, section 707(d) is functionally severable. The overarching purpose of the bulk of Proposition 21 was to increase the penalties for and consequences of juvenile and gang-related offenses, and to make a larger group of juveniles eligible for treatment as adults. Because the principal purpose of section 707(d) was to provide a procedural mechanism for expediting the processing of the targeted juveniles into the adult system, its removal merely eliminates a procedural avenue while leaving intact the increased penalties and consequences of juvenile and gang-related offenses. Third, we believe section 707(d) is volitionally severable because the remainder of the initiative, after deleting the discretionary direct filing provision, would likely have been adopted by the electorate had they foreseen the invalidity of that provision. The voters who enacted Proposition 21 would presumably prefer that the core purpose of changing the penalties and consequences of juvenile and gang-related offenses from those that existed before the initiative was enacted remain operable even though the fitness determinations remain committed to the judiciary. There is no persuasive reason to suppose the discretion given to the prosecutors under section 707(d) was so critical to the enactment of Proposition 21 that the measure would not have been enacted in its absence. We therefore conclude that section 26 of Proposition 21, including section 707(d), although invalid, is severable from the other provisions of Proposition 21.