Montgomery v. Louisiana a Supreme Court Case



Montgomery v. Louisiana a Supreme Court Case

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Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718, 577 U.S. 460, 193 L. Ed. 2d 599 (2016).


The case involved Henry Montgomery the petitioner versus the State of Louisiana as the respondent. The case revolves around the alleged murder of Charles Hurt by Henry Montgomery which occurred in 1963. At that time Henry was seventeen years old. Henry was found guilty of the offense and sentenced to death. The case was revised by Louisiana Supreme Court who reversed the conviction on the arguments that public prejudice prevented a fair trial (Montgomery v. Louisiana, 2016). Following this reversal by the Supreme Court, Henry was handed a direct life sentence without parole thus leaving him with no opportunity to present evidence that he was a minor at the time of the crime which would consequently justify a less severe punishment.

Fifty years later, the case was returned to court and heard under Miller v. Alabama. According to Miller’s argument, a mandatory life sentence without pardon for a minor amounted to violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition clause. Miller argued that moderated liability and capacity for behavior change should have been factors of consideration before arriving at the harsh decision of the court. The Supreme Court held in Miller that the illegal sentence was a violation of the Eighth Amendment (Montgomery v. Louisiana, 2016). On July 28, 2015, CAC filed a court brief in support of Montgomery on behalf of former juvenile court judges. The argument presented was to retroactive the application of Miller to justify that mandatory life without parole sentence is inappropriate for the offenders. Juvenile offenders are less immature and more amenable to change thus a lesser punishment need to be imposed. Although it is past 50 years, the Miller’s application is relevant to juvenile cases and should be applied in the review on Montgomery case (Fox & Stein, 2016). The Supreme Court reaffirmed that children who commit crimes are capable of change in the future. The Supreme Court also explained that remedying Miller’s violation would not impose a huge burden on the state since it only requires the application of the ruling by extending parole on the juvenile offenders.


The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the petitioner by holding promises of sentencing juvenile offenders. The Supreme Court reversed the ruling in Miller v. Alabama which bared sentences of mandatory life imprisonment without parole for juveniles (Montgomery v. Louisiana, 2016).

The Supreme Court plays a crucial role in the US constitution since it is the highest court in the land and the last resort to people seeking justice. The Supreme Court of the United State holds special power from the constitution to check the actions of the president and the Congress. The Supreme Court checks the actions of the president based on the constitution and advises the Congress on the laws that violate the US constitution. Based on the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to issue orders compelling the government officials to act in accordance with the law (Baum, 2015). The Supreme Court has the final say on any Congress laws including those related to the US Constitution. The Court protects civil rights and liberty by striking down laws that violate the US constitution.

The Supreme Court has the mandate to review decisions made by the court of appeal and Federal courts. It is the final arbiter of federal constitutional cases. The Court of Appeal reviews the decisions of the federal courts and has jurisdiction to hear specialized cases like patent law and those decided by US Court of International but cannot hear cases regarding the US constitution (McCloskey & Levinson, 2016). The Supreme Court hears cases regarding the state government and constitution while the federal courts hear cases governing people daily’s lives mainly the civil and criminal cases. The federal courts interpret the federal laws while the Supreme Court interprets the constitutional laws (Scalia, 2018). Also, the federal courts have limited jurisdiction to hear cases under special circumstance as opposed to the Supreme Court. Last, the US Supreme Court is the only federal court mentioned in the US constitution.

Not every case presented is heard by the US Supreme Court. Cases reviewed by the Supreme Court must involve an issue of federal or that which falls within the jurisdiction of federal courts. The Certiorari Act of 1925 gives the Supreme Court discretion to decide on the cases to hear and review. A lawsuit must be filled by the local state or by the federal court or appeal presented before the Supreme Court decide to review (Baum, 2015). For cases appealed, a petition for certiorari need to be prepared. Every year, more than 10, 000 petitions of certiorari are presented but only about a hundred cases are heard. When the 13 federal circuits and 50 states reach a different conclusion on the case, the Supreme Court step in to hear the case (McCloskey & Levinson, 2016). Also, cases that speak to the Justice interest and unusual cases are preferred. Last, disregarding cases of a Supreme Court decision by the lower courts are reviewed and heard.

The Supreme Court decided to review and hear Montgomery v. Louisiana since it involved the constitutional issue on the Eighth Amendment based on “Cruel and unusual punishment”. More so, the petition for certiorari was presented by former juvenile judges Amici who have high experience in the cases and sentences of juvenile offenders (Fox & Stein, 2016). The earlier decision passed by the Court was inappropriate for a juvenile offender who has a possibility of changing in future.


Baum, L. (2015). The supreme court. CQ press.

Fox, D., & Stein, A. (2016). Constitutional Retroactivity in Criminal Procedure. Wash. L. Rev.91, 463.

McCloskey, R. G., & Levinson, S. (2016). The American supreme court. University of Chicago Press.

Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718, 577 U.S. 460, 193 L. Ed. 2d 599 (2016).

Scalia, A. (2018). A matter of interpretation: Federal courts and the law: Federal courts and the law. Princeton University Press.