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Plaintiffs in juvenile lifers case ask federal judge to lift stay

The plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Maryland’s system of parole as it applies to juvenile lifers say they have not been able to reach a settlement agreement with the state and have asked a judge to lift the stay on the case.

“No just reason exists to continue the stay, particularly considering the long delays in this matter resulting from the protracted stay while the individual Plaintiffs remain incarcerated with no meaningful opportunity for release under an unconstitutional system,” the plaintiffs stated Friday in a letter to the court. “Therefore, Plaintiffs move to lift the stay.”

The state opposes the motion and will file a written response, according to the filing, although nothing had been filed as of Tuesday morning.

The lawsuit, filed in 2016, alleges the system does not offer a meaningful opportunity for release because people serving life sentences for crimes committed when they were juveniles are rarely paroled. A stay was entered in January so the parties could address a potential settlement.

In the two years since the suit was filed, the constitutionality of parole standards for juvenile lifers has gone before the Court of Appeals, where it is still pending, and Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order stating his intention to give such prisoners a meaningful opportunity for release.

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.

The plaintiffs seek to extend the discovery deadline and other dates by 150 days. Attorneys with the ACLU of Maryland, which represents the plaintiffs, declined to comment Tuesday.

The case is Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative et al. v. Governor Larry Hogan et al., 1:16-cv-01021-ELH.

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