Ark. Supreme Court Rules For Juvenile Resentencing, Upholds Class Action Status in VA Case

Jun 18, 2015

The Arkansas Supreme Court

The Arkansas Supreme Court issued two decisions Thursday, one concerning mandatory life sentences for crimes committed by juveniles, the other on a lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs.

In one case, justices ordered a new sentencing hearing for an inmate serving mandatory life in prison without parole for crimes he committed as a juvenile. The state's high court upheld a lower court ruling that Ulonzo Gordon should receive a new sentence in line with a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring mandatory life sentences for juveniles.

The decision could impact the sentences of other inmates serving such terms in the state, including two appeals the Arkansas high court remanded back to circuit court last month without ruling on retroactivity because of procedural issues.

The Arkansas court also previously sent Gordon's case back to circuit court for procedural issues. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Louisiana case arguing in favor of retroactivity later this year.

The Arkansas Supreme Court also Thursday upheld a judge's decision to grant class-action status in a lawsuit that claims the state Department of Veterans Affairs failed to pay some nurses overtime at facilities in Little Rock and Fayetteville.

In a 4-3 decision, the court upheld Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Palmer's order granting class certification to the lawsuit, which claims violations of the state's minimum wage act.

The 2013 lawsuit accuses the agency of automatically deducting 30 minutes per day from nurses' hours for lunch breaks even though they were regularly required to work during that time. The suit also claims the department required the nurses to work without compensation before and after their shifts to complete their job duties.

The VA has denied the suit's claims.