Author: University of Baltimore Law Review Staff

Issues to Watch

Mathena v. Malvo: Strengthening Juvenile Sentencing Jurisprudence or Halting Its Progress?


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Micah Millsaps*

Mathena v. Malvo is the latest case to reach the Supreme Court in a series of milestone cases that have reshaped juvenile sentencing jurisprudence.  See Tom Jackman, Supreme Court to Consider Whether Sniper Lee Boyd Malvo Should Be Resentenced, Wash. Post (Oct. 14, 2019, 6:30 AM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/crime-law/2019/10/14/supreme-court-consider-whether-sniper-lee-malvo-should-be-resentenced/.  Over the past two decades, scientific developments indicating an inherent difference between juvenile and adult offenders have influenced the Court’s decisions governing juvenile sentencing.  Id.  Evidence of a child’s “transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences” lessens their moral culpability in comparison to adults and heightens their ability to be reformed, making children less deserving of the most severe punishments.  Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 472, 475 (2012).  To avoid violating the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment, the Court has given considerable weight to such evidence in determining the appropriate sentencing scheme to implement in cases that involve juvenile offenders.  See id. at 471.  In furtherance of this objective, the Court barred the death penalty as a possible punishment for juvenile offenders in Roper v. SimmonsSee Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 578 (2005).  Moreover, the Court in Graham v. Florida held that sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the chance of parole for non-homicide crimes is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.  See Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 82 (2010).  Graham’s holding was later extended by Miller v. Alabama to include juveniles convicted of homicide crimes.  See Miller, 567 U.S. at 489.  Three years later, Montgomery v. Louisiana made the Miller decision apply retroactively.  See Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718, 736 (2016).  Most recently, Mathena v. Malvo was argued before the Supreme Court in October of 2019, and it highlighted the major issues with the varying interpretations of Miller and the lack of uniform application of its standard across the jurisdictions.  See Amy Howe, Argument Analysis: “D.C. Sniper” Case Could Hinge on Kavanaugh, SCOTUSBlog (Oct. 16, 2019, 4:28 PM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2019/10/argument-analysis-d-c-sniper-case-could-hinge-on-kavanaugh/. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Weather Update: Blizzard Covers up Human Rights


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Jordan E. Culley*

The American gaming company Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Blizzard) made international headlines with its decision to ban players for supporting the Hong Kong protests.  See Matthew Gault, Blizzard’s Hong Kong Screw-Up Is Officially an International Incident, Vice (Oct. 8, 2019, 5:24 PM), https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bjw535/blizzards-hong-kong-screw-up-is-officially-an-international-incident.  In an official Blizzard broadcast on October 6th, 2019, a player named Blitzchung declared his support for Hong Kong’s protest movement during a post-tournament interview.  See id.; Zach Beauchamp, One of America’s Biggest Gaming Companies Is Acting as China’s Censor, Vox (Oct. 8, 2019, 12:10 PM), https://www.vox.com/2019/10/8/20904433/blizzard-hong-kong-hearthstone-blitzchung.  Two days later, Blizzard sanctioned Blitzchung by suspending him for a year, required him to forfeit thousands of dollars in prize money from 2019, and fired the commentators who conducted the interview.  See Beauchamp, supra.  Blizzard supported these sanctions by citing to § 6.1(o) of its Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules.  See id.  This rule states:

Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages [sic] Blizzard[’s] image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.

(more…)

Issues to Watch

Equitable Goals, Meet Community Stakeholders: School Redistricting in Howard County


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Jonathan Lucido*

I.  Introduction

Howard County, Maryland ranks third among the wealthiest counties in the United States.  See Gaby Galvin, The 10 Richest Counties in the U.S., U.S. News (Dec. 6, 2018), https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/slideshows/richest-counties-in-america?onepage.  Additionally, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is ranked as the best school district in the entire state of Maryland.  Ivan De Luce, The Best Public-School District in Every State, Bus. Insider (May 23, 2019, 1:41 PM), https://www.businessinsider.com/the-best-school-district-in-every-state-2019-5; Howard County Public Schools, Niche, https://www.niche.com/k12/d/howard-county-public-schools-md/ (last visited Oct. 19, 2019).  However, the benefits of having the highest ranked school district and access to quality educational programs comes with a cost, as Howard County has one of the highest property tax rates in Maryland.  See generally 2019–2020 Md. Dep’t Assessments & Tax’n County & Municipality Tax Rates, https://dat.maryland.gov/Documents/statistics/Taxrates_2019.pdf. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: A Fixed Fight Reaches the Supreme Court


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 Andrew Will*

In 1977, former President Richard Nixon sat down for a series of interviews with relatively obscure British television presenter David Frost.  See Transcript of David Frost’s Interview with Richard Nixon, Teaching Am. History, https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/transcript-of-david-frosts-interview-with-richard-nixon (last visited Dec. 12, 2019).  In Part 3 of the televised series, President Nixon famously told Frost, “Well, when the President does it, that means it is not illegal.”  Id.  Although referring to matters of national security, Tricky Dick’s words capture the essence of the unitary executive theory.  See Tom Head, Unitary Executive Theory and the Imperial Presidency, ThoughtCo., https://www.thoughtco.com/unitary-executive-theory-the-imperial-presidency-721716 (last updated Sept. 17, 2019).  Proponents of the unitary executive theory believe that Article II of the Constitution vests the President with all executive power, and they seek to contest any limits to presidential authority.  See id.  On October 18, 2019, those in the unitary executive’s corner scheduled their latest prize fight.  See Amy Howe, Justices to Review Constitutionality of CFPB Structure, SCOTUSblog (Oct. 18, 2019, 3:56 PM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2019/10/justices-to-review-constitutionality-of-cfpb-structure/.  Granting certiorari to a Ninth Circuit decision, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the statutory restrictions protecting the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) from presidential removal.  See id.  The Court will now weigh in on a decades-long constitutional bout between the Legislative and Executive Branches.  See id.  Although independent agencies have survived previous rounds, the Roberts Court seems poised to declare the CFPB down for the count.  See id. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Education Funding Formulas: With Kirwan Commission Prepared to Finish Their Work, Stage is Set in Annapolis for Contentious Legislative Session


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Matthew Bendorf*

As senators and delegates throughout the State of Maryland prepare for their annual descension to the State House in Annapolis, leaders of both chambers have established the core issue for the upcoming session.  At the top of the legislature’s list of priorities for the upcoming ninety-day session will be continued efforts on the first reformation of the state’s education system in seventeen years.  Kate Ryan, Maryland House Speaker Said Education Bill Will Be Top Priority, WTOP (July 24, 2019, 4:10 AM), https://wtop.com/maryland/2019/07/marylands-house-speaker-says-education-bill-will-be-number-one/. (more…)