In 1964, Fifteen-year-old Gerald Gault was adjudicated a delinquent by an Arizona Juvenile Court for allegedly making an obscene phone call with another juvenile to a neighbor. Gault was committed to a state juvenile facility for detention until he reached adulthood. In the juvenile proceedings: Gault was not represented by counsel; his parents and he were not provided written notice of hearings; the juvenile petition did not specify what he was alleged to have done wrong; the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses was not provided, he was denied the privilege against self-incrimination; and no transcripts of any of the proceedings were made.
On appeal of the dismissal of his Writ of Habeas Corpus by the Arizona Courts, in 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although the juvenile courts were originally set up to benefit children by taking their cases out of the purview of criminal courts, the reality was that the informality and paternalism of these proceedings and their lack of procedural regularity led to situations where juveniles were denied the fundamental fairness guaranteed to adults. The Court determined that because delinquency adjudications may lead to commitment to state institutions, with a resulting loss of liberty, due process protections must be applied to those proceedings.
After Gault, juvenile courts were required to provide juveniles: 1) written and
timely notice of charges and parents must be informed that their child has been taken into custody; 2) understanding of their right to be represented by counsel and to be appointed counsel if indigent; 3) the right against self-incrimination; and 4) the right to confront and cross-examine complainants and the other witnesses against them.
Votes: Black, Brennan, Clark, Douglas, Fortas, Warren, White
Dissents: Stewart, Harlan (in part)
Opinion of the Court: Fortas, with concurrences by Black and White
Web Links: Findlaw: In Re Gault - website link to the full text of the U. S. Supreme Court opinion:
http://laws.findlaw.com/us/387/1.html The Oyez Project, Northwestern University: provides a summary of the opinion, how the Justices voted and a recording of the actual oral arguments.
http://oyez.nwu.edu/cases/cases.cgi?case_id=181&command=show American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center - an ABAnetwork website where you can read more about juvenile justice issues, research resources and links to related sites.
http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/home.html Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention - link to an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice whose stated mission is to provide resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. The site has numerous listings of resources, program information, publications, facts and figures, and links to related sites.
http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org/index.html Juvenile Justice: A Century of Change - link to an article in the Juvenile Justice Bulletin, a publication of the Department of Justice, which provides an overview of the history, functions, and trends of the juvenile court system.