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January 9, 2008

Supreme Court Clinic faculty to discuss juvenile justice case at American Constitution Society event, January 10

The Austin Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy will host a luncheon program featuring UT Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic faculty on Thursday, January 10, 2008.

The program—entitled “Should 12-Year-Old Children Be Treated Like Adult Criminals? Extending Roper v. Simmons”—will be held at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, 300 Colorado St., at noon. The cost is $8 for students and $20 for non-students. CLE credit will be available.

Faculty and attorneys working with the Supreme Court Clinic will discuss a petition for certiorari filed on December 17, 2007 with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to review the sentence of a South Carolina prisoner, Chris Pittman, who is serving a thirty-year term without parole for an offense he committed when he was twelve years old. No other inmate in the country is serving so severe a sentence for an offense committed at such a young age.

Speakers at the event include Michael Sturley, a UT Law professor who directs the Supreme Court Clinic; Lynn Blais, a UT Law professor and a Clinic faculty member; Michele Deitch, an attorney and criminal justice policy expert who teaches at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and Law School and who worked with LBJ policy students on the cert petition; and Lanny Vickery, an Austin-based attorney and 1984 Law School graduate who helped handle Pittman’s case in the South Carolina courts and works on the case with the Clinic.

The cert petition asks the Supreme Court to address for the first time whether its reasoning in the 2005 Roper v. Simmons decision, which prohibited the death penalty for minors, also protects twelve-year-old children who receive lengthy mandatory sentences without possibility of parole.

The Clinic argues that Pittman’s sentence of thirty years without the possibility of parole is constitutionally excessive because the Simmons case said that “children are different” when it comes to sentencing. The Clinic is asking the Supreme Court to consider whether it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to impose such a severe sentence on a twelve-year-old child, especially when the sentencing judge had no opportunity to take Pittman’s youth into account as a mitigating factor.

People interested in attending the luncheon should contact or call David Weiser at 322-0600 at Kator, Parks & Weiser.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is a national organization of law students, law professors, judges, and practicing attorneys who seek to restore the fundamental principles of respect for human dignity, protection of individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice to their rightful place in American law. The ACS also has a UT Law chapter which hosts debates, panel discussions, guest speakers, and a brown bag lunch series.

Related Links:

UT Law Supreme Court Clinic

Law School Clinic Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Major Juvenile Justice Case

Contact: Kirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or