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Court Decides if Petitioners Constitutional Rights Have Been Violated


A New York Probate Lawyer said that, this is an appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1257 (2) from a judgment of the Supreme Court of Arizona affirming the dismissal of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petition sought the release of appellants’ 15-year-old son, who had been committed as a juvenile delinquent to the State Industrial School by the Juvenile Court of Gila County, Arizona. The Supreme Court of Arizona affirmed dismissal of the writ against various arguments which included an attack upon the constitutionality of the Arizona Juvenile Code because of its alleged denial of procedural due process rights to juveniles charged with being ‘delinquents. The court agreed that the constitutional guarantee of due process of law is applicable in such proceedings. It held that Arizona’s Juvenile Code is to be read as ‘impliedly’ implementing the ‘due process concept.’ It then proceeded to identify and describe ‘the particular elements which constitute due process in a juvenile hearing.’ It concluded that the proceedings ending in commitment of the 15-year-old son did not offend those requirements.

A New York Will Lawyer said that, on Monday, June 8, 1964, at about 10 a.m., the 15-year-old son and his friend were taken into custody by the Sheriff of Gila County. The 15-year-old son was then still subject to a six months’ probation order which had been entered on February 25, 1964, as a result of his having been in the company of another boy who had stolen a wallet from a lady’s purse. The police action on June 8 was taken as the result of a verbal complaint by a neighbor of the boys, about a telephone call made to her in which the caller or callers made lewd or indecent remarks. It will suffice for purposes of this opinion to say that the remarks or questions put to her were of the irritatingly offensive, adolescent, sex variety.

A Long Island Probate Lawyer said that, at the time the 15-year-old son was picked up, his mother and father were both at work. No notice that he was being taken into custody was left at the home. No other steps were taken to advise them that their son had, in effect, been arrested. He was taken to the Children’s Detention Home. When his mother arrived home at about 6 o’clock, he was not there. His older brother was sent to look for him at the trailer home of his friend’s family. He apparently learned then that he was in custody. He so informed his mother. The two of them went to the Detention Home. The deputy probation officer, who was also superintendent of the Detention Home, told the mother was there’ and said that a hearing would be held in Juvenile Court at 3 o’clock the following day, June 9.

Queens Probate Attorneys said that, the Officer filed a petition with the court on the hearing day, June 9, 1964. It was not served. Indeed, none of them saw this petition until the habeas corpus hearing on August 17, 1964. The petition was entirely formal. It made no reference to any factual basis for the judicial action which it initiated. It recited only that ‘said minor is under the age of eighteen years, and is in need of the protection of this Honorable Court; (and that) said minor is a delinquent minor.’ It prayed for a hearing and an order regarding ‘the care and custody of said minor.’ The Officer executed a formal affidavit in support of the petition.

On June 9, the 15-year-old son, his mother, his older brother, and Probation Officers appeared before the Juvenile Judge in chambers. The father was not there. He was at work out of the city. The complainant was not there. No one was sworn at this hearing. No transcript or recording was made. No memorandum or record of the substance of the proceedings was prepared. Our information about the proceedings and the subsequent hearing on June 15, derives entirely from the testimony of the Juvenile Court Judge. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge said he would ‘think about it.’ Gerald was taken back to the Detention Home. He was not sent to his own home with his parents. On June 11 or 12, after having been detained since June 8, Gerald was released and driven home.2 There is no explanation in the record as to why he was kept in the Detention Home or why he was released. At 5 p.m. on the day of the son’s release, his mother received a note signed by the said Officer.

A Bronx Estate Litigation Lawyer said that, the Superior Court dismissed the writ, and appellants sought review in the Arizona Supreme Court. That court stated that it considered appellants’ assignments of error as urging (1) that the Juvenile Code, ARS § 8—201 to § 8—239, is unconstitutional because it does not require that parents and children be apprised of the specific charges, does not require proper notice of a hearing, and does not provide for an appeal; and (2) that the proceedings and order relating to the son constituted a denial of due process of law because of the absence of adequate notice of the charge and the hearing; failure to notify appellants of certain constitutional rights including the right to counsel and to confrontation, and the privilege against self-incrimination; the use of unsworn hearsay testimony; and the failure to make a record of the proceedings. Appellants further asserted that it was error for the Juvenile Court to remove Gerald from the custody of his parents without a showing and finding of their unsuitability, and alleged a miscellany of other errors under state law.

The issue in this case is whether appellant’s constitutional rights have been violated.

The Supreme Court of Arizona held that due process of law is requisite to the constitutional validity of proceedings in which a court reaches the conclusion that a juvenile has been at fault, has engaged in conduct prohibited by law, or has otherwise misbehaved with the consequence that he is committed to an institution in which his freedom is curtailed. This conclusion is in accord with the decisions of a number of courts under both federal and state constitutions.

This Court has not heretofore decided the precise question. In the 1966 case decision, the court considered the requirements for a valid waiver of the ‘exclusive’ jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court of the District of Columbia so that a juvenile could be tried in the adult criminal court of the District. Although our decision turned upon the language of the statute, we emphasized the necessity that ‘the basic requirements of due process and fairness’ he satisfied in such proceedings. The Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment applied to prohibit the use of the coerced confession. Accordingly, while these cases relate only to restricted aspects of the subject, they unmistakably indicate that, whatever may be their precise impact, neither the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults alone.

We do not in this opinion consider the impact of these constitutional provisions upon the totality of the relationship of the juvenile and the state. We do not even consider the entire process relating to juvenile ‘delinquents.’ For example, we are not here concerned with the procedures or constitutional rights applicable to the pre-judicial stages of the juvenile process, nor do we direct our attention to the post-adjudicative or dispositional process. We consider only the problems presented to us by this case. These relate to the proceedings by which a determination is made as to whether a juvenile is a ‘delinquent’ as a result of alleged misconduct on his part, with the consequence that he may be committed to a state institution. As to these proceedings, there appears to be little current dissent from the proposition that the Due Process Clause has a role to play. The problem is to ascertain the precise impact of the due process requirement upon such proceedings.

From the inception of the juvenile court system, wide differences have been tolerated—indeed insisted upon—between the procedural rights accorded to adults and those of juveniles. In practically all jurisdictions, there are rights granted to adults who are withheld from juveniles. In addition to the specific problems involved in the present case, for example, it has been held that the juvenile is not entitled to bail, to indictment by grand jury, to a public trial or to trial by jury. It is frequent practice that rules governing the arrest and interrogation of adults by the police are not observed in the case of juveniles. The history and theory underlying this development are well-known, but a recapitulation is necessary for purposes of this opinion. The Juvenile Court movement began in this country at the end of the last century.

Appellants allege that the Arizona Juvenile Code is unconstitutional or alternatively that the proceedings before the Juvenile Court were constitutionally defective because of failure to provide adequate notice of the hearings. No notice was given to the son’s parents when he was taken into custody on Monday, June 8. On that night, when the mother went to the Detention Home, she was orally informed that there would be a hearing the next afternoon and was told the reason why her son was in custody. The only written notice Gerald’s parents received at any time was a note on plain paper from the Officer delivered on Thursday or Friday, June 11 or 12, to the effect that the judge had set Monday, June 15, ‘for further Hearings on the son’s delinquency.’

A ‘petition’ was filed with the court on June 9 by the Officer, reciting only that he was informed and believed that ‘said minor is a delinquent minor and that it is necessary that some order be made by the Honorable Court for said minor’s welfare.’ The applicable Arizona statute provides for a petition to be filed in Juvenile Court, alleging in general terms that the child is ‘neglected, dependent or delinquent.’ The statute explicitly states that such a general allegation is sufficient, ‘without alleging the facts.’ There is no requirement that the petition be served and it was not served upon, given to, or shown to the son or his parents.

The Supreme Court of Arizona rejected appellants’ claim that due process was denied because of inadequate notice. It stated that the mother knew the exact nature of the charge against the son from the day he was taken to the detention home.’ The court also pointed out that the parents appeared at the two hearings ‘without objection.’ The court held that because ‘the policy of the juvenile law is to hide youthful errors from the full gaze of the public and bury them in the graveyard of the forgotten past,’ advance notice of the specific charges or basis for taking the juvenile into custody and for the hearing is not necessary. It held that the appropriate rule is that ‘the infant and his parents or guardian will receive a petition only reciting a conclusion of delinquency. But no later than the initial hearing by the judge, they must be advised of the facts involved in the case. If the charges are denied, they must be given a reasonable period of time to prepare.’

We cannot agree with the court’s conclusion that adequate notice was given in this case. Notice, to comply with due process requirements, must be given sufficiently in advance of scheduled court proceedings so that reasonable opportunity to prepare will be afforded, and it must ‘set forth the alleged misconduct with particularity.’ It is obvious, as we have discussed above, that no purpose of shielding the child from the public stigma of knowledge of his having been taken into custody and scheduled for hearing is served by the procedure approved by the court below. The ‘initial hearing’ in the present case was a hearing on the merits. Notice at that time is not timely; and even if there were a conceivable purpose served by the deferral proposed by the court below, it would have to yield to the requirements that the child and his parents or guardian be notified, in writing, of the specific charge or factual allegations to be considered at the hearing, and that such written notice be given at the earliest practicable time, and in any event sufficiently in advance of the hearing to permit preparation. Due process of law requires notice of the sort we have described—that is, notice which would be deemed constitutionally adequate in a civil or criminal proceeding. It does not allow a hearing to be held in which a youth’s freedom and his parents’ right to his custody are at stake without giving them timely notice, in advance of the hearing, of the specific issues that they must meet. Nor, in the circumstances of this case, can it reasonably be said that the requirement of notice was waived.

Accordingly, for the reasons stated, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Arizona is reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. It is so ordered.

Every person is protected by their basic constitutional rights, if the same has been violated; seek the assistance of A Bronx Estate Litigation Attorney and Bronx Estate Attorney at Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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