Cal Law Trends and Developments


Kenneth Hecht

Article Title

Juvenile Law


Review of the 1969 decisions in juvenile law reveals that the courts in California, as elsewhere, have been traumatized by the recent transplant of constitutional due process into the formerly barren soil of the juvenile code. For sixty years, children in most American jurisdictions were hidden from constitutional view. The fiction persisted that they were not tried but treated. If a child carne to the attention of the juvenile court, he did so because his parents had failed to fulfill their function. The court succeeded to their role and, in the name of parens patriae, exercised only the power it had thus derived to fashion an appropriate cure. Juvenile law was said to be noncriminal. The forum was viewed not so much as a court but as a social services laboratory, in which the specimen unfortunately might be required to languish until his majority rendered him judicially cognizable. As every lawyer knows, the United States Supreme Court has now finally discovered a place for juveniles within the Constitution. Kent v. United States and In Re Gault have found that a largely unfulfilled promise of corrective treatment does not justify the immunity of the juvenile process from constitutional scrutiny. In the following Court term, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District brought the Constitution through the schoolhouse door. Taken together, these three cases at least sketch the dimensions of the proposition that children, too, are citizens, entitled to fundamental constitutional rights and liberties. It is within this still-obscure outline that the courts are working. The present article, accordingly, traces the California response to Gault's imperative that the Constitution be applied to those who are under the age of twenty-one.

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