Hill v. Snyder, No. 10-14568, 2013 WL 364198 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 30, 2013) – Juveniles sentenced to mandatory life without parole for first-degree murder brought a § 1983 civil rights class action in federal court alleging that the State’s failure to provide them with parole eligibility violated their Eighth Amendment rights. The court granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs, holding that Michigan’s statute prohibiting parole in first-degree murder cases is unconstitutional as applied to plaintiffs. In November 2013, the court ordered the state to “create an administrative structure for the purpose of processing and determining the appropriateness of parole” for juvenile offenders serving life-without-parole sentences.
The court directed the state to give “notice to all such persons who have completed 10 years of imprisonment that their eligibility for parole will be considered in a meaningful and realistic manner.” The court stated that the Parole Board will be required to explain its decisions regarding whether to grant release, may not issue a “no interest” order or anything “materially like a no interest” order, and may not permit a veto of a release decision by the sentencing judge. Parole release decisions “will be fair, meaningful, and realistic.” Finally, the court stated that “no prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for a crime committed as a juvenile will be deprived of any educational or training program which is otherwise available to the general prison population.” The court determined that the state had until the end of the year to comply with the order or the court might appoint a special master to oversee compliance. The order was stayed pending an appeal to the Sixth Circuit.
*NOTE: On May 11, 2016, the Sixth Circuit vacated the challenged district court orders, and remanded “for the district court to address these issues under the legal landscape established by Montgomery v. Louisiana, Miller v. Alabama, and this opinion.” Hill v. Snyder, No. 13-2661, 2016 WL 2731706, at *1 (6th Cir. May 11, 2016).