On This Date in Legal History

Gerald Gault and a friend allegedly made an obscene phone call to a neighbor. On June 8, 1964, both boys were taken into custody. After a hearing Gerald was committed to the State Industrial School until he was 21. His parents sought his release. A lower court dismissed their petition for a writ of habeas corpus and the Supreme Court of Arizona affirmed the lower court’s decision. The Gaults appealed to the Supreme Court where they argued that the Juvenile Code of Arizona was unconstitutional, because it permitted the state to detain and commit a juvenile to a state institution without providing procedural due process (i.e. notice of any and all formal charges, the right to counsel, the right to confront one’s accuser, etc).

Attorney Amelia Dietrich Lewis with Gerald Francis Gault

Attorney Amelia Dietrich Lewis with Gerald Francis Gault

On May 15, 1967, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision. Justice Fortas, who delivered the opinion for the court, explained–  “Under our Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court. The traditional ideas of Juvenile Court procedure, indeed, contemplated that time would be available and care would be used to establish precisely what the juvenile did and why he did it — was it a prank of adolescence or a brutal act threatening serious consequences to himself or society unless corrected?” Watch this excellent video that further explains this case at https://goo.gl/14JN0d.

About Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

Tina Nelson is an attorney and mom. She created the LAWSUIT™ board game to teach her three children about the law. The game was an instant success. Copyrights and a patent were obtained, and Professional Games, Inc. was born. Professional Games, Inc. created this blog to educate and keep its friends and customers regularly updated about our American legal system.
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