Press Release

Cooley Contributes to Heightened Constitutional Protections for Emerging Adults in Massachusetts

January 11, 2024

Boston – January 11, 2024 – Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a groundbreaking 4-3 opinion in Commonwealth v. Mattis that protects “emerging adults” aged 18 to 20 from receiving sentences of life without parole pursuant to the Eighth Amendment and the Massachusetts Constitution.

The Supreme Judicial Court drew extensively on contemporary neuroscience reflecting the still-developing brains and personalities of emerging adults – including from the amicus brief that Cooley filed representing many of the nation’s top neuroscience, psychology and juvenile justice scholars in support of these heightened constitutional protections. Lawyers Adam Gershenson, Kathleen Hartnett, Matt Nguyen and Darina Shtrakhman led the Cooley effort.

Read the opinion

This decision builds on Cooley’s representation of these leading scholars seeking to ensure that constitutional safeguards comport with the modern scientific consensus regarding the emerging adult brain. In addition to Massachusetts, Cooley also filed amicus briefs representing the same scholars and involving similar constitutional considerations in the California Supreme Court, which is pending decision, and in the Michigan Supreme Court, which issued a similar landmark opinion in 2021 expanding constitutional rights for 18-year-olds.

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