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CRM 123: Case Law: 2019 sample Case: Miller v. Alabama


Motion of petitioner for leave to proceed in forma pauperis granted. Petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Arkansas granted. The case is to be argued in tandem with No. 10–9646, Miller v. Alabama. Citation: 565 U.S. 1013, 132 S.Ct. 548 (Mem), 181 L.Ed.2d 395, 80 USLW 3275, 80 USLW 3280

Purpose of Legal Research

cer•tio•ra•ri  from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law :an extraordinary writ issued by a superior court (as the Supreme Court) to call up the records of a particular case from an inferior judicial body (as a Court of Appeals)  Certiorari is one of the two ways to have a case from a U.S. Court of Appeals reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Certification is the other. The Supreme Court may also use certiorari to review a decision by a state's highest court when there is a question as to the validity of a federal treaty or statute, or of a state statute on constitutional grounds. Certiorari is also used within state court systems. 


In forma pauperis ability of an indigent person to proceed in court without payment of the usual fees associated with a lawsuit or appeal.


Legal research “is not merely a search for information; it is primarily a struggle for understanding. The need to think deeply about the information discovered is what makes legal research the task of a professional lawyer. -Michael Lynch

Source:  Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing, Vol9, 2001

Selected Resources


Terms you should know:

  • Culpability
  • Certiorari
  • Substantive Due Process
  • Unenumerated Right
  • Mandatory Minimum punishment


Milller, age 17. Colby Smith (16 at time of crime)  pleaded guilty and received a sentence of Life with the possibility of parole.

There are 46 filings associated with just this case.


There are 2,187 other cases that have cited this case.

What makes this case so important?

  • Certiorari by the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Overturned State Supreme Court ruling
  • Potentially affects thousands of other cases
  • Affects State laws governing sentencing of minors

Miller, in 2016. 

June 2012: The Supreme Court, on certiorari review of decision of state supreme court affirming the dismissal of defendant's state habeas petition alleging that mandatory imposition of sentence of life without possibility of parole on defendant, who was convicted of capital felony murder committed at age 14, constituted violation of Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment,

In 2012 there were nearly 2,500 prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of pa- role for murders they committed before the age of 18.

In 2016, Miller is still awaiting his new sentencing hearing

March, 2017: Evan Miller's resentencing hearing (no verdict as of January 14, 2018)


Oral Arguments and opinion of the case, with transcript. (Audio file Oeyz)


Think About it

Based on the questions and your readings, think about how you would summarize (brief) this case.

  1. Who were the plaintiffs?
  2. Who was (or were) the defendent(s)?
  3. How would you locate this case in Nexis Uni?

TIP! Read Twice. On the SECOND reading, highlight or take notes.

Pre-read a case without highlighting anything!

"This can be tough because as you pre-read you get a sense of what is important and naturally want to note it. However, you can never really know what is important until you read an entire case.

By not highlighting anything on your first pass, you also save time in the long run when you outline. When you outline, you return to a case a few weeks after you first read it. With unnecessary highlighting, you end up spending a lot of time re-reading to find out what is relevant in a given case.

On your second pass through the case, identify the relevant sections and highlight the issue(s), rule(s), facts, analysis, policy, procedural history and other elements. Identify the elements with a notation in the margin. Some students use different colored highlighters to identify different elements. One color is used for the rule, another for the issue, and so on. This usually works well only for highly visual people. For myself, I find that different colors slow you down and only add to the confusion of too much highlighting.

As in all things, if it works for you and adds to your productivity and efficiency, then do it. Otherwise, eliminating the clutter will speed you along your way" -Law Nerds, 2012


Additional Resources

  • Miller V Alabama
  • Miller, Evan

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