PORTLAND, Ore. (June 10, 2016) – Holland & Knight, working with the Juvenile Law Center, has helped secure an important win in an Oregon Supreme Court case regarding children who face transfer to adult court.
In a reversal of an appeals court decision, the Oregon State Supreme Court ruled on May 26 that the state’s transfer statute requires juvenile courts to consider whether juveniles’ emotional, social and intellectual capacities are sufficiently “adult-like” before they may be transferred to adult criminal court. The justices remanded the case, State v. J.C.N.-V., back to the juvenile court for consideration under the proper interpretation of the standard.
When he was 13 years old, J.C.N.-V. was charged with aggravated murder along with a 20-year-old friend. Oregon state law gives the juvenile court discretion to waive its jurisdiction and transfer a youth to the jurisdiction of the circuit court for criminal prosecution only if it first finds a youth to be of “sufficient sophistication and maturity to appreciate the nature and quality of the conduct involved.” The case was transferred from juvenile court to the circuit court for criminal prosecution as an adult. Upon appeal, the intermediate court affirmed the transfer.
Holland & Knight joined with the Juvenile Law Center and represented a score of national juvenile justice advocates in filing two amicus briefs in the Oregon Supreme Court supporting the child’s appeal of his transfer to adult court.
The Oregon State Supreme Court found in J.C.N.-V.’s favor, stating that the legislature did not intend for a child’s "sophistication and maturity" to be a simplistic test of adult criminal capacity. Instead the court must have a more nuanced and individualized approach and "take measure of a youth and reach an overall determination as to whether the youth’s capacities are, on the whole, sufficient adult-like to justify a conclusion that the youth was capable of appreciating, on an intellectual and emotional level, the significant consequences of his conduct."
Roy Pulvers, a partner in Holland & Knight’s Portland, Ore., office, led the firm’s pro bono team working on this case. Associate Calon Russell, also of Portland, assisted with the research.
"Holland & Knight has a long history of collaborating with the Juvenile Law Center on juvenile justice matters, a relationship spearheaded by Buddy Schulz, the chair of our Public and Charitable Service Department," said Mr. Pulvers. "We are proud of this partnership and to have played a role in a case that will provide significant guidance for courts across the country on the appropriate interpretation of transfer standards."
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