The Harvard Law School Fair Punishment Project’s newly formed Legal Advisory Council for Amicus and Issue Briefs, has issued an issue brief arguing that a sentencer may impose a life without parole sentence upon a juvenile only after concluding that the child is “the rare juvenile offender who exhibits such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible.” The question was at the heart of the recent U.S. Supreme Court order in Tatum v. Arizona (decided October 31, 2016).

This is the first issue brief of the Legal Advisory Council, formed to produce legal analysis on emerging issues in criminal law and procedure. The council consists of nearly two dozen law professors, prosecutors, defense lawyers, recent Supreme Court law clerks, and Supreme Court litigators. Many on the council have HLS connections:

  • Amir Ali ’11, associate, Jenner & Block
  • Russell Anello ’07, attorney, Davis Polk
  • Rachel Barkow ’96, professor, New York University School of Law; faculty director, the Center on the Administration of Criminal, NYU
  • Douglas A. Berman ’93, professor, the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
  • Tamar Birckhead ’92, professor, director of clinical programs, University of North Carolina School of Law
  • Jessica Brand ’07, staff attorney, Texas Defender Service
  • Daniel Epps ’08, HLS Climenko Fellow 2013-2016, associate professor, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Carissa Hessick, Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law 2005-2007, Professor of Law, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Latonia Haney Keith ’03, director of clinical education and assistant professor, Concordia University School of Law
  • Leah Litman, Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law, 2014-2016, assistant professor of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law
  • Daniel Medwed ’95, professor, Northeastern University School of Law
  • Jonathan Schneller ’10, appeals attorney, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Central District of California
  • Carol Steiker ’86, HLS professor, faculty co-director, Criminal Justice Policy Program
  • Jordan Steiker ’88, professor, University of Texas at Austin School of Law
  • Carter Stewart ’97, managing director, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation

The HLS Fair Punishment Project, a joint initiative of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at HLS and the HLS Criminal Justice Institute, was launched last spring to use legal research and educational initiatives to ensure that the U.S. justice system is fair and accountable. It works to highlight injustices resulting from prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective defensive lawyering, racial bias, and unconstitutional use of excessive punishment. The project also closely partners with The Bronx Defenders, which provides strategic, research, and writing assistance.