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High Court Recusal on Last Resort Sentencing Clouds Juvenile Rules

A requirement that Supreme Court Justice Robert Carter recuse himself from a juvenile sentencing appeal could see more kids incarcerated in Illinois. That’s because a deadlock among the remaining justices on the seven-member panel leaves in place conflicting guidelines for judges in state courts when determining the fates of young offenders. Carter replaced Justice Thomas Kilbride in November, after serving on the appellate panel in the 3rd District that decided the case before the high court.

At issue is a 2012 amendment to the Illinois Juvenile Court Act that requires on-the-record justification for sending kids to detention centers, deemed a judge’s last resort when passing sentences in juvenile cases. The 3rd District ruling absolved judges from elaboration based on seven criteria, while earlier appeals in the 1st and 2nd districts require them to enter evaluations in pursuit of the “least restrictive” method for meting out punishment. Because the high court has yet to consider either conflicting appeal, the 3rd District ruling applies statewide thanks to its inability to agree on the 2019 theft case involving a Rock Island teen.

Absent a ruling, judges remain at liberty to provide their reasoning on factors of age, criminal history and the physical, mental and emotional health of the offender thanks to a determination by the panel on which Carter sat that judges in the earlier rulings failed to weigh alternatives to stints in juvie. That judges need not say whether they’ve sought alternatives runs counter to the amendment, which aims to mitigate the effects of incarceration both on families and the at-large public. The DuPage County Juvenile Defense Attorneys at The Chicagoland Law Firm help young offenders that have been charged with crimes in courts around the state, including in sentencing appeals. To learn more about the services we offer, contact our offices in Downers Grove and downtown Chicago for a free consultation with a DuPage Juvenile Defense Lawyer. We are your best defense.