I’ve been thinking about the Court’s grant of cert. in two cases in which Juveniles were sentenced to long prison terms for crimes in which no one was killed. Lyle Denniston has some great analysis on the matter here.

Another thing odd about these cases is that the Court considered them at several consecutive conference sessions. Here is how the docket in Sullivan v. Florida:

Oct 20 2008 Application (08A358) to extend the time to file a petition for a writ of certiorari from November 4, 2008 to December 4, 2008, submitted to Justice Thomas.
Oct 22 2008 Application (08A358) granted by Justice Thomas extending the time to file until December 4, 2008.
Dec 4 2008 Petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed. (Response due January 12, 2009)
Dec 23 2008 Waiver of right of respondent Florida to respond filed.
Jan 15 2009 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of February 20, 2009.
Jan 21 2009 Response Requested . (Due February 20, 2009)
Feb 26 2009 Order extending time to file response to petition to and including March 23, 2009.
Mar 20 2009 Brief of respondent Florida in opposition filed.
Mar 30 2009 Reply of petitioner Joe Harris Sullivan filed.
Apr 2 2009 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of April 17, 2009.
Apr 20 2009 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of April 24, 2009.
Apr 27 2009 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of May 1, 2009.
May 4 2009 Motion to proceed in forma pauperis and petition for a writ of certiorari GRANTED.

It isn’t that usually for the Court to request a response to cert, but it is rare for the Court to consider a case at three consecutive conferences without comment. The docket sheet for Graham v. Florida looks similar:

Nov 20 2008 Petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed. (Response due December 29, 2008)
Dec 1 2008 Waiver of right of respondent Florida to respond filed.
Dec 11 2008 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of January 9, 2009.
Dec 15 2008 Response Requested . (Due January 14, 2009)
Jan 22 2009 Order extending time to file response to petition to and including February 13, 2009.
Feb 3 2009 Brief of respondent Florida in opposition filed.
Feb 19 2009 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of March 6, 2009.
Apr 2 2009 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of April 17, 2009.
Apr 20 2009 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of April 24, 2009.
Apr 27 2009 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of May 1, 2009.
May 4 2009 Motion to proceed in forma pauperis and petition for a writ of certiorari GRANTED.

I’m not sure what to think about the Court’s apparently conflict over the cases. The scenarios are seemingly fairly similar, although if I had to make a distinction I would say that Sullivan makes for slightly more sympathetic defendant. Graham committed his armed robbery when he was 17-years old and while on probation for another crime and the Court could pretty reasonable make a distinction for repeat offenders. Sullivan, on the other hand, was only 13-years old when he was convicted of sexual battery and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.



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