DeBacker v. Brainard

PETITIONER: Clarence De Backer
RESPONDENT: Homer Brainard, Sherriff of Dodge County Nebraska
LOCATION: Dodge County Juvenile Court

DOCKET NO.: 15
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 396 US 28 (1969)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1969 / Oct 14, 1969
DECIDED: Nov 12, 1969

ADVOCATES:
Alfred L. Scanlan, Jr. - as amicus curiae
Richard L. Kuhlman - for the appellee
William G. Line - for the appellant

Facts of the case

A juvenile court judge declared 17-year-old Clarence DeBacker a “delinquent child” and ordered him committed to the Boys’ Training School for forging his father’s signature on a check and attempting to pass it off as legitimate. Before the hearing, DeBacker had requested a jury trial, but the judge denied the request. The Nebraska Juvenile Court Act denies juveniles a trial by jury. Instead of seeking review of his sentence, DeBacker flied for state habeas corpus, arguing that the juvenile court violated the Sixth Amendment when it denied him a jury trial. The Nebraska District Court dismissed the petition and the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed. On appeal, DeBacker argued that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Duncan v Louisiana and Bloom v Illinois entitle him to a jury trial.

Question

(1) Does the Nebraska Juvenile Court Act, which denies juveniles a trial by jury, violate the Sixth Amendment?

(2) Does a state statute requiring proof only by a preponderance of the evidence violate the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for DeBacker v. Brainard

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1969 (Part 1) in DeBacker v. Brainard

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1969 (Part 2) in DeBacker v. Brainard

Warren E. Burger:

You may proceed whenever you're ready.

Richard L. Kuhlman:

If the Court please the appellant yesterday mentioned that you would accept the measure of involuntary custody.

It's a matter of determination is to whether or not the jury trial guarantee in a criminal case applies to juvenile court proceedings.

Of course, we have that in the one hand and on the other --

William O. Douglas:

Could you tell me where the appellant is at the present time Is he in the regular prison of the state or is he in the --

Richard L. Kuhlman:

Yes, he is in the Men's Reformatory which is a part of the penal complex.

He is no longer in the training school to which he was ordered by the Court.

William O. Douglas:

I've been looking in the record to see when the transfer took place and --

Richard L. Kuhlman:

It doesn't appear in the record Your Honor.

John M. Harlan II:

Was it the -- as a result of him acquiring a certain age?

Richard L. Kuhlman:

No.

This occurs as a matter of transfer by the Department of Institutions through a statute.

William O. Douglas:

Pure administrative --

John M. Harlan II:

Yes, purely administrative and as I pointed out yesterday.

This matter whether or not this statute which allows this transfer is unconstitutional should be attack in that way rather than attacking the juvenile court system through this vehicle.

But the fact that he is in the penal complex is by virtue of a separate statute which is not at issue here.

Well, he is now in the penal institution where man or woman who is an adult would be if convicted of forgery?

Richard L. Kuhlman:

Yes.

The basis for the transfer is a matter of the statute sets out if they become incorrigible they can be transferred and it was based on this that he was transferred.

Warren E. Burger:

As you terminated yesterday, I think you would just making the point that nowhere in this case is there any attack on the validity of this administrative process by which he was transferred out of a juvenile detention establishment into an adult penal institution?

Richard L. Kuhlman:

That's correct Your Honor.

Warren E. Burger:

And I think your point was as you have just made it again, that if anything is the correct attack by collateral proceedings?

Richard L. Kuhlman:

Yes, by habeas corpus, then at the penal complex now to test the sufficiency or the constitutionality of this transfer rather than through the juvenile jury system.

Warren E. Burger:

While we have you have there, although it probably is not relevant here, was there any kind of hearing in the administrative process of making this transfer from one institution to the other?

Richard L. Kuhlman:

Yes, there is a hearing before the -- within the Board of Pardons and the --

Warren E. Burger:

But there are hearing of some kind --

Richard L. Kuhlman:

Department of Public Institution, yes.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you.

Richard L. Kuhlman:

There is a hearing that determines this.

Thurgood Marshall:

Is an institutional hearing held in the penitentiary?