St. Mary's Law Journal


Carlos Cadena


For over sixty years, courts consistently found notions of due process inapplicable in juvenile proceedings. The goal of the juvenile court movement was to establish systems of education and protection of errant children, rather than deterrence and retribution. To accomplish these results, the juvenile court was shorn of all resemblance to criminal courts. Public hearings were to be avoided and the intervention of counsel was not required, since the juvenile judge represented both the child and the state. However, it became clear that children were receiving the protection of the state because they engaged in criminal conduct and with little more than a superficial examination the “school” the youthful offenders were committed could easily be mistaken for a prison. These outcomes raised constitutional challenges that were rebuffed by courts. However, this trend shifted when the Supreme Court made clear that children require more, not less, protection than an adult in Gallegos v. Colorado. This is because children, no matter how sophisticated, are unlikely to be able to conceive exactly what their situation is without access to more than just the police. Though Gault successfully expanded the scope of due process for juveniles, it left many pretrial questions and constitutional issues in juvenile proceedings unanswered. Unless we are prepared to hold that the practices condemned in Miranda v. Arizona and Mapp v. Ohio are more socially acceptable as the age of the accused decreases, there is no reason to expect that the Supreme Court will condone violations of the rights of minors when similar practices would be held to violate the rights of adult criminals.


St. Mary's University School of Law