The juvenile court is a noble institutiona noble, underfunded, often unappreciated institution charged with the most important duty imaginable, protecting and reforming our children when all else failed. The juvenile court is one of the few places in society where the needs of children are paramount and where a passion for helping children defines its work. In the juvenile court, children are the absolute priority. The juvenile court is doing a creditable job under adverse circumstances toward achieving these goalshowever, a better job is needed and, fortunately, it can be achieved.
Most citizens see the juvenile court as an institution designed to deal with young offenders who commit crimes. Although this may be its most public function, the juvenile court is much more. The dispositions of child abuse and neglect cases and cases involving the termination of parental rights are equally and increasingly important functions that are essential to understanding the relationship between dependency and delinquency. The juvenile court system was founded with high goals. In theory, the system was supposed to help and rehabilitate young offenders.
It was designed to act as a guardian looking out for the best interests of children. In practice, juvenile court often failed to rehabilitate. It also denied young people the protection and rights guaranteed to adults. In many cases, juveniles were processed through a system with few safeguards and little hope of treatment. In 1966, the U. S. Supreme Court began to change the theory and operation of the juvenile justice system. Should teenagers have the same rights as adults under the Constitution? Several cases have dealt with this question.
The answer is not always yes and the court has said, in fact, that in certain instances teenagers can be treated differently. In this section, we will discuss cases affecting teenagers. These cases will form the basis for classroom debates or in preparation for state debate competition. The cases discussed relate to the question of whether or not teenagers are entitled to the same protection under the law as adults. The first session deals with cases relating to the 1st amendment rights of teenagers.
The second section deals with Supreme Court rulings regarding the disciplining of teenagers. Section 1 n Supreme Court cases affecting the procedural protection of teenagers under the Constitution. In Re Gault – Minor’s Rights WAS IT FAIR? In 1964, in Globe, Arizona, 15 n year-old Gerald Gault was charged with making an obscene telephone call to a female neighbor. He was convicted by a juvenile court in Arizona and committed to a juvenile correctional facility for an indeterminate period not to extend beyond his 21st birthday.
Justice Fortas again wrote the opinion for the court and ruled that youth are also protected under the 14th amendment. He also stated that Gault’s constitutional rights had been violated and that Gault was entitled to:7 Adequate notice of the precise nature of the charges brought against him. Notice of the right to counsel and, if indigent, the right to have counsel appointed. The right to confront witnesses and have them cross-examined. The privilege against self-incrimination, which applies to juvenile and adult proceedings.
The court also concluded that, because the non-criminal label attached to juvenile proceedings did not dictate the scope of the juvenile’s rights, calling such matter “civil” would not dictate the parameter of the rights prescribed. Gault marked the constitutional domestication of the parens patriae juvenile court, and a new era dawned based on a more criminal due process model contrasted with the historic informality of juvenile court proceedings.
It decision affected the way all juveniles are treated in court today. In re Gault, focused on children’s due process rights, and, in the 1990’s, to one focused on accountability and punishment. None of these, alone, is enough. Today, the court must somehow simultaneously afford children due process, deliver swift and appropriate punishment, and endeavor to rehabilitate and meet the therapeutic needs of juvenile offenders and their families.