During the juvenile court proceedings, Gerald was questioned by the judge about the telephone call. There were conflicts to the testimonies among the witnesses, foremost of which is the denial of Gerald and his mother that Gerald participated as principal to making the prank calls. Suffice it said that cross-examination ensued without the benefit of counsel or the expressed advice of answering the questions under proper legal advice. Thus, at the conclusion of the hearing, the judge said he would "think about it.
" Gerald was taken back to the Detention Home. He was not sent to his own home with his parents. After having been detained for almost five days, Gerald was released and driven home. As the court gleans from the record of the proceedings, no satisfactory explanation was offered as to why he was kept in the Detention Home or why he was released. On the day of Gerald's release, Mrs. Gault received a note signed by Officer Flagg. It was on plain paper, not letterhead.
Despite Gerald’s total denial of the allegations made by complainant the court the judge committed Gerald as a juvenile delinquent to the State Industrial School "for the period of his minority” unless sooner discharged. The order of the court asseverates that "after a full hearing and due deliberation the Court finds that said minor is a delinquent child, and that said minor is of the age of 15 years”. Issues: • Whether or not the Juvenile Act and its concomitant procedures violate the constitutionally protected right to a fair and equal due process in quasi-criminal or juvenile proceedings.
• Whether or not the Juvenile Code of Arizona is invalid on its face or as applied as it runs contrary to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Inasmuch as the Juvenile Court virtually has unlimited discretion. • Whether the petitioners-appellants were denied of the 1) Right to a notice of the charges, 2) Right to a counsel, 3) Right to confrontation and cross-examination, 4) Privilege against self-incrimination 5) Right to a transcript of the proceedings and 6) the right to an appellate review of the case.
Held: The court finds that the Juvenile Court proceedings as in the case of Gerald Gault were tantamount to a derailment of justice that should be equally afforded to adults and children. There was a denial of due process of law because of the absence of adequate notice of the charge and hearing, the failure to notify the parties of their rights to counsel, cross-examination and confrontation in an adversarial case, violation of the right against self-incrimination and the failure to make a record of the proceedings.
Ratio: Citing jurisprudence, specifically Kent v. United States, 383 U. S. 541, 562 (1966), the court reminds the manifold duties of the courts of justice to align its proceedings in consonance with the constitutionally protected rights to a fair and just trial—or in other words, must adhere strictly to the principle due process for cases that involve matters of incarceration or conviction without regard to age, gender, creed or class.
Everyone is entitled to a day in court be it an adult or a child. The Court traces the history of the juvenile court system, stating that during its heyday, there were disparate treatments and indeed wide differences of the latitude of remedy or conduct afforded between the adult and the child. Eventually, societies realized that the burden of justice must not weigh upon the minor just as much as it does exert pressure on the adult.
Society's role, was not to ascertain whether the child was "guilty" or "innocent," but "What is he, how has he become what he is, and what had best be done in his interest and in the interest of the state to save him from a downward career” (Mack, 1909). Thus, the child is to be "treated" and "rehabilitated," and the procedures, from apprehension through institutionalization, were to be "clinical", rather than punitive. However, in the case at bench, Gerald’s commitment to an Industrial School, being an institution of confinement, is commensurate to incarceration.
Therefore, it would be unconscionable and indeed repugnant to the Constitution if the regularity and rights attendant in a criminal proceeding were not made available to the child who must be likewise given the utmost importance and treated with care. The State acts exercises its role as parens patriae, or serves as surrogate parents of the child. As such, it must place the best interest of the child above and beyond anything else and could be lenient as to the rigid technicalities in court proceedings and in the application of the law.
Additionally, while the decision of this Court is concerned only with procedure before the juvenile court in this case, it should be noted that special procedures for juveniles are thought to be justified by the special consideration and treatment afforded them and thus, such special considerations must be available to the minor in all the stages of his case in courts. In the case at bar, none of these special treatments were granted to the appellant.
In fact, the bare minimum standards of Due Process, the details listed above, were denied, thereby causing a miscarriage of justice for Gerald Gault. Decision: The judgment of the Supreme Court of Arizona is reversed. Case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with the decision of the Court.
Legal Journals: Mack, J. (1909), ‘The Juvenile Court 23 Harv. L. Rev’, Harvard Law Review, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.