BOSTON (October 1, 2007) — McDermott Will & Emery and The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts are pleased to welcome their newest Equal Justice Works fellow, Lia Monahon. As a fellow, Ms. Monahon’s goal is to improve sentencing outcomes for juveniles in Massachusetts by expanding the use of Roper v. Simmons. She will focus especially on reforming mandatory life without parole sentences.
Inspired by her prisoners’ rights work and activism, Ms. Monahon applied for the Equal Justice Works Fellowship in order to challenge sentencing laws that punish children no differently than adults. As it stands in Massachusetts, children 14 and older charged with murder are automatically tried in the adult system, where conviction means a mandatory life sentence without parole (LWOP). In collaboration with a coalition of advocates, Ms. Monahon will make strategic challenges to the exclusive jurisdiction of adult court over youth charged with murder and to the imposition of mandatory life sentences. If change is not forthcoming in the courts, the coalition will pursue legislative reform.
When the Supreme Court of the United States abolished the juvenile death penalty in Simmons, it brought the United States in line with settled international human rights law and, significantly, relied on scientific evidence of adolescent brain development. Yet despite their developmental immaturity and relative lack of resources, children in the United States are still subject to life sentences that ignore their diminished culpability and their greater capacity for rehabilitation. The United States leads the world in the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole, accounting for 99.5 percent of all youth serving this sentence around the globe.
Before becoming a fellow, Ms. Monahon clerked for the Honorable Kenneth M. Karas in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and was a litigation associate at the international law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, LLP. She attended Northwestern University School of Law, where she began juvenile defense and appellate advocacy at the Bluhm Legal Clinic, one of McDermott’s pro bono partners.
The McDermott Will & Emery Charitable Foundation has sponsored five Equal Justice Works fellows over the past four years, including Ms. Monahon. To augment and support McDermott’s Kids First Program, the fellowships focus exclusively on children’s issues. During the two-year fellowships, the fellows have the opportunity to work with McDermott lawyers.
Founded in 1977, The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts is a private, non-profit, legal advocacy and resource center providing direct representation to low income children in Eastern Massachusetts, and technical assistance and training to lay and professional communities throughout New England on issues affecting children’s education, civil rights, custody, health and welfare. For more information, visit www.clcm.org
The Equal Justice Works Fellowships program places new lawyers in two-year assignments at nonprofit public interest organizations where they implement projects to meet community needs.