Litigation over the constitutionality of Maryland’s treatment of juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison was referred to a federal magistrate judge for a settlement conference last week but the parties will still proceed with a months-long discovery process.
U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander signed the order referring the case for settlement March 30, the same day she signed a scheduling order laying out the parties’ plan for discovery and pretrial motions over the course of the next year.
The lawsuit, filed by the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, seeks a judicial declaration that Maryland’s parole system for juvenile lifers has morphed into a system of executive clemency that does not comply with recent Supreme Court rulings requiring juvenile offenders to have the opportunity to show they have matured and been rehabilitated.
Hollander denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in February, finding that the inmates had sufficiently alleged that parole for juvenile lifers is illusory in the state — no juvenile has been paroled in more than two decades — and could proceed with their lawsuit claiming violations of the state and federal prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.
A schedule proposed by the parties stated the plaintiffs were prepared to participate in a settlement conference but did not want discovery delayed in the meantime. The state agreed to a settlement conference after discovery but was willing to consider earlier participation depending on what information was received.
The scheduling order calls for service of initial written discovery this week and completion of factual discovery by November. Dispositive pretrial motions are due in March 2018.
The case is Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative et al. v. Gov. Larry Hogan et al., No. 1:16-cv-01021-ELH.