Cleary Gottlieb Authors Amicus Brief Opposing the U.S. Practice of Sentencing Juveniles to Life in Prison Without Parole

March 26, 2014

Cleary Gottlieb submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Human Rights Watch, urging the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to find that the United States, by continuing to sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole, has violated its international obligations.

The United States is the only country in the world to impose life-without-parole sentences on juvenile offenders. Although Graham v. Florida limited these sentences to homicide cases, and Miller v. Alabama held mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles unconstitutional, juveniles can still be sentenced to life in prison without parole on a discretionary basis. Thousands of people in the United States are currently serving these sentences for crimes they committed as children. Cleary Gottlieb’s brief focused on the national context: every state in the nation allows children to be tried, sentenced, and incarcerated as adults for at least some crimes, and hundreds of thousands of children enter the adult criminal justice system every year. Cleary Gottlieb’s brief demonstrated in detail how the United States fails to provide special protection to these children, in violation of international norms and treaties, including those to which it is a signatory.