1966 March 21

Due Process for Kids: Supreme Court Reins in District of Columbia Juvenile Court


In Kent v. United States, decided on this day, the Court declared unconstitutional the procedural irregularities in the juvenile court in the District of Columbia, a federal court. Under the philosophy of parens patriae, juvenile courts were given broad latitude, but the Supreme Court ruled that “the admonition to function in a ‘parental’ relationship is not an invitation to procedural arbitrariness.” Specifically, the Court held that a juvenile must be afforded due process rights, specifically that a waiver of jurisdiction from a juvenile court to a district court must be voluntary and knowing.

The subsequent Supreme Court decision, In re Gault, decided on May 15, 1967, involved the juvenile courts of the state of Arizona, and by extension the juvenile courts of all 50 states.

The Court: “The parens patriae philosophy of the Juvenile Court ‘is not an invitation to procedural arbitrariness’.” 

Learn more about the rights of juveniles in court: http://www.opd.ohio.gov/Juvenile/Jv_Rights.htm

Read: David S. Tanenhaus, The Constitutional Rights of Children: In Re Gault and Juvenile Justice (2011)

Listen to the oral argument in the casehttp://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1965/1965_104

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