Can a Court Sentence a Juvenile to Life in Prison without Chance of Parole?

A recent New York Times Article, titled “Juvenile Killers in Jail for Life Seek a Reprieve,” describes a recent Supreme Court decision to deny a now 25-year-old man parole for a murder committed when he was 14.    

The article describes the circumstances surrounding the crimes as a scuffle between step-brothers that escalated from goofing around with a blowgun to an angry threat with a bow and arrow to the fatal thrust of a hunting knife.

The young man is now in a maximum-security prison, serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has been methodically diminishing severe sentences. For example, it has banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders, the mentally disabled and those convicted of crimes other than murder. Also, as recent as 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but did not rule on whether or not this applies to cases involving a murder.

Interestingly, a dissenting judge argued that sentencing juveniles to life in prison is essentially allowing them to die there, which cannot be distinguished from the death penalty which as applied to juveniles has been declared unconstitutional.

For the full article click here<Read More>

Upcoming Divorce Rates in NY

The high divorce rate is unfortunately becoming less of a shock from year to year. With the dramatic changes to both New York divorce and marriage, many (including myself) wonder what the immediate and long-term affects of these changes will be on the rate/percentage of divorce in our State.  The two changes that I am referring to are the passing of No-fault divorce and the legal recognition of gay marriage. 

According to several articles (including one in the New York Post,  the Huffington Post, and the New York Divorce Report,) New York has already seen an increase of 12% in the divorce rate since the recent passing of No-Fault divorce in October 2010. There have not yet been such studies done of the affect of gay marriage.

So, how will the passing of gay marriage affect the divorce rates?

Will the numbers increase even more with the addition of thousands of new marriages? Some think that with the increase in the number of marriages occurring in the state, the percentage of divorce will decrease. But, even if that is the case, it may just be a short-term/immediate response but not last very long. One possibility is an initial decrease with a spike back up after couples reach higher numbers of wedding anniversaries.

In one story, published by, a newly married man said that he was optimistic about his new nuptials because the couple had already lived together for a long period of time, during which they experienced many ups and downs.… <Read More>

Is Teen Pregnancy Becoming The Newest Fad?

Is the continuance of broadcasting popular MTV shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” bad public policy?

With the shows rising popularity, some fear that the show is giving off a bad message to, and having negative effects on young women around the US.

With teens following these teen-mom stories, and later finding them all over the tabloids, it has become a fear that teens will purposely become pregnant just to gain the fame associated with the MTV reality show.

But, would a government cease and desist be permissible or too far-reaching?… <Read More>

The Mental Impairment And Financial Hardship Link

On October 30, 2010, the NY Times published an article about how financial troubles can be signs to doctors (and family members) that elderly patients might be facing mental impairment, including dementia and Alzheimer’s.


Similarly, on March 3, 2011, the NY Times reported on how mental impairment can be a sign of financial vulnerability. Such impairments spark professionals to screening older patients for financial vulnerability.

We have to be wary of the higher risk of fraud and financial abuse that elderly become susceptible to because of developing mental impairment. Likewise, financial hardship or abuse can be a cue into a person’s developing mental impairments.

 … <Read More>

New York Marriage Recognition Rule

New York’s long-settled “marriage recognition rule” affords recognition to out-of-state marriages and recognizes as valid a marriage considered valid in the place where celebrated, unless it is contrary to the prohibitions of natural law or an express statutory prohibition.  Same-sex marriage does not fall within either  of these exceptions to the marriage recognition rule.

In a ruling late February, The New York Appellate Division, First Department affirmed this established NY tenet in the Matter of Ranftle. The facts involved a man’s petition to vacate a Surrogate’s Court probate decree finding that his deceased’s brother same-sex partner was entitled to the residue of the will as the surviving spouse. The lower court found that the men’s marriage was valid under the laws of Canada and did not fall into either of the two exceptions to the marriage recognition rule, as it was not affirmatively prohibited or proscribed by natural law.

On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed, rejecting a public policy argument brought forth by the appellant.… <Read More>