The Constitutional Rights of Children: In re Gault and Juvenile Justice

Overview

When fifteen-year-old Gerald Gault of Globe, Arizona, allegedly made an obscene phone call to a neighbor, he was arrested by the local police, who failed to inform his parents. After a hearing in which the neighbor didn't even testify, Gault was promptly sentenced to six years in a juvenile "boot camp"?for an offense that would have cost an adult only two months.

Even in a nation fed up with juvenile delinquency, that sentence seemed over the top and inspired a spirited defense ...

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Overview

When fifteen-year-old Gerald Gault of Globe, Arizona, allegedly made an obscene phone call to a neighbor, he was arrested by the local police, who failed to inform his parents. After a hearing in which the neighbor didn't even testify, Gault was promptly sentenced to six years in a juvenile "boot camp"—for an offense that would have cost an adult only two months.

Even in a nation fed up with juvenile delinquency, that sentence seemed over the top and inspired a spirited defense on Gault's behalf. Led by Norman Dorsen, the ACLU ultimately took Gault's case to the Supreme Court and in 1967 won a landmark decision authored by Justice Abe Fortas. Widely celebrated as the most important children's rights case of the twentieth century, In re Gault affirmed that children have some of the same rights as adults and formally incorporated the Fourteenth Amendment's due process protections into the administration of the nation's juvenile courts.

Placing this case within the context of its changing times, David Tanenhaus shows how the ACLU litigated Gault by questioning the Progressive Era assumption that juvenile courts should not follow criminal procedure. He then takes readers to the Supreme Court to fully explore the oral arguments and examine how the Court came to decide Gault, focusing on Justice Fortas's majority opinion, concurring opinions, Justice Potter Stewart's lone dissent, and initial responses to the decision.

The book explores the contested legacy of Gault, charting changes and continuity in juvenile justice within the contexts of the ascendancy of conservative constitutionalism and Americans' embrace of mass incarceration as a penal strategy. An epilogue about Redding v. Safford—a 2009 decision involving a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl, also from Arizona, who was forced to undress because she was suspected of hiding drugs in her underwear—reminds us why Gault is of lasting consequence.

Gault is a story of revolutionary constitutionalism that also reveals the tenacity of localism in American legal history. Tanenhaus's meticulous explication raises troubling questions about how local communities treat their children as it confirms the importance of the Supreme Court's decisions about the constitutional rights of minors.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In 1964, 15-year-old Gerald Gault was arrested for allegedly making an obscene phone call. In a procedure stunningly devoid of due process protections, Gault was given a cursory hearing and sentenced to six years in a tough, boot camp-style boys' detention facility. Juvenile rights expert Tanenhaus (law & history, William S. Boyd Sch. of Law, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas; Juvenile Justice in the Making) places what happened to Gault in social, legal, and historical context and packs his retelling of the now-famous case with fascinating detail. Especially compelling is his account of how, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Gault's case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The author's exploration of the intricacies of the oral arguments and Justice Fortas's majority opinion illuminate the legal issues and highlight the importance of the decision, which extended due process protections to juvenile court proceedings. VERDICT Even those familiar with the case In re Gault will find Tanenhaus's behind-the-scenes insights revelatory. Juvenile justice and constitutional law collections should add this book.—Joan Pedzich, Harris Beach PLLC, Rochester, NY
From the Publisher
"Tanenhaus's story allows for insights into the incorporation process, the role of the American Civil Liberties Union (which represented Gault at the

US Supreme Court), oral argument, and (very importantly) the life of a case after it has been decided."—Choice

"This book is a good primer on the role of litigation in the juvenile-justice system reforms precipitated by the Gault case. It is well written and will hold students interest. . . . It includes a bibliographic essay and chronology that will be useful to help students situate cases and events within the nations legal landscape."—Social Service Review

"Tanenhaus places what happened to Gault in social, legal, and historical context and packs his retelling of the now-famous case with fascinating detail. Especially compelling is his account of how, with the help of the ACLU, Gault's case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The author's exploration of the intricacies of the oral arguments and Justice Fortas's majority opinion illuminate the legal issues and highlight the importance of the decision, which extended due process protections to juvenile court proceedings. Even those familiar with the case In re Gulat will find Tanenhaus's behind-the-scenes insights revelatory."—Library Journal

"This is a useful book, particularly for teaching. It uses its case study method to address larger legal, constitutional, and social issues. . . . The book is an effective tool for teachers and students to explore a crucial turning point in legal and constitutional history."—Journal of American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700618149
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 7/19/2011
  • Pages: 172
  • Sales rank: 1,478,040
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David S. Tanenhaus is professor of history and James E. Rogers Professor of History and Law at the William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is author of Juvenile Justice in the Making, coeditor of the volume A Century of Juvenile Justice, and editor of Law and History Review.

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Table of Contents

Editors' Preface

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Part I: Desert Justice

1. A Disgrace for the State of Arizona

2. Have You Got Big Bombers?

Part II: Legal Liberalism

3. This Is Going to Be a Great Case

4. It Will Be Known as the Magna Carta for Juveniles

Part III: Just Deserts

5. Kent and Gault Already Seem like Period Pieces

Epilogue

Chronology

Bibliographic Essay

Index

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