IL Supreme Court Urged the Legislature to Amend Automatic Transfer Laws

On cross appeal in Patterson, the Illinois Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of the automatic transfer statute, and affirmed it BUT with a strong caution to the legislature that automatic transfer needs to be amended:

Justice Kilbride delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion that was filed on October 17, 2014.

On page 32 of opinion, the court urged the legislature to reform the transfer statute, writing:

“We do, however, share the concern expressed in both the Supreme Court’s recent case law and the dissent in this case over the absence of any judicial discretion in Illinois’s automatic transfer provision. While modern research has recognized the effect that the unique qualities and characteristics of youth may have on juveniles’ judgment and actions (see, e.g., Roper, 543 U.S. at 569-70; infra ¶ 156), the automatic transfer provision does not. Indeed, the mandatory nature of that statute denies this reality. Accordingly, we strongly urge the General Assembly to review the automatic transfer provision based on the current scientific and sociological evidence indicating a need for the exercise of judicial discretion in determining the appropriate setting for the proceedings in these juvenile cases.”

Justice Theis dissented, with an extraordinary full opinion, citing the legislative history of the transfer provisions, and research, including JJI research, – and concluded:

“The majority concludes that the eighth amendment does not apply. The majority is wrong. Criminal procedure laws that fail to take defendants’ youthfulness into account at all are flawed. See Graham, 560 U.S. at 76.3 Like the laws involved in Roper, Graham, and Miller, section 5-130 is mandatory and inflexible. Every juvenile who commits one of the enumerated offenses is treated like every adult who commits the same offenses. Transfers are automatic, and the statute contains no mechanism by which a judge can consider characteristics of juveniles before transferring them to criminal court, where, if convicted, they face stiffer adult penalties, enhancements, and other rules to extend their time in prison. To comport with federal and state constitutions, transfer proceedings must take into account how children are different and how those differences may counsel against sending them to criminal court. Here, a judge should have been allowed to consider the defendant’s intelligence, his psychological and developmental issues, his family history and status as a ward of the State, as well as any other characteristics that would have aided in making such a determination.

Our state, home of the country’s first juvenile court and once a leader in juvenile justice reform, should not be a place where we boast of locking up juveniles and throwing away the key. Illinois should be a place where youth matters, and we work to tailor punishment to fit the offense and the offender, as required by our federal and state constitutions. For juveniles, that starts with abolishing automatic transfers.

I respectfully dissent.”

Click here to read the full opinion.


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