Juvenile Court Proceedings

Appeal by way of certiorari under 28 U. S. C. § 1257(2) to a decision of the Arizona Supreme Court affirming the dismissal of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus for petitioner-appellant. Writer of the Court opinion: Mr. JUSTICE FORTAS Case History: Appellant Gerald Gault was taken into custody by Detention Officer Flagg and detained him in the Juvenile Detention Home. A case against appellant was subsequently filed by the officer to the Juvenile Courts.

After due hearing, the alleged complaints were appreciated against the favor of the appellant, holding him a delinquent child. The Juvenile Court ordered appellant to be committed to the State of Industrial School for the period of his minority. Parents of Gerald, and herein petitioner-appellants, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the Arizona Supreme Court which was then referred to the Superior Court for hearing. The petition for the writ was dismissed by the Superior Court and the decision to dismiss, likewise, was affirmed by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Under the issues of the constitutionality of the Juvenile Act and violations of the Due Process Clause, Petitioner-Appellants elevated the case to the United States Supreme Court, hence the case at bar. Facts of the Case:  Gerald Gault, 15 years of age, who was still suffering the juvenile infirmity of six months probation for a previous misdemeanor of having stolen a wallet from a lady’s purse, was taken into custody by the Sheriff of the county. The detention and custody were precipitated by a verbal complaint by a neighbor of Gerad Gault for allegedly receiving pranks calls from Gerald.

The calls were purported to be indecent, lewd, irritating offensive, adolescent and of a sexual variety according to Mrs. Cook, the neighbor. At the time that Gerald was taken into custody, both his mother and father were still at work. As such, his parents did not know his whereabouts much less were even notified that their son was being detained. No other steps were taken to advise them that their son had been arrested. Subsequently, Gerald was detained in the Children’s Detention Home. A few hours later, his mother arrived home and wondered where Gerald could be at that time.

Apparently worried of what might have happened to her son, Mrs. Gault asked Gerald’s older brother to look for him at the trailer home of the Lewis Family. Thereafter, they learned that Gerald was being detained. Thereafter, they went to the detention home where they met deputy probation officer Flagg who informed them the reason for Gerald’s detention or arrest. A hearing would be held would be held in Juvenile Court at 3 o'clock the following day. A petition for due hearing was filed by Officer Flagg, which a copy of the notice was not sent to the Gaults.

The Gaults did not see the petition until it was presented as evidence during the hearing for the writ of habeas corpus was filed more than a month after. The petition was entirely formal and it made no reference to any factual basis for the judicial action which it initiated. The only information contained therein in relation to the detention is the mere mention that the “said minor is under the age of eighteen years, and is in need of the protection of this Honorable Court […] that said minor is a delinquent minor”.

There was an affidavit executed by Officer Flagg to the verity of the petition. The following days, Gerald, his mother, his older brother, and Probation Officers Flagg and Henderson appeared for hearing before the Juvenile Judge in chambers. All this time, Gerald's father was not there inasmuch as he was still at work. Likewise, the complainant, Mrs. Cook, was not there. Indeed, as the records show, “1) no one was sworn at this hearing, 2) no transcript or recording was made 3) no memorandum or record of the substance of the proceedings was prepared.