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Law School Case Brief

In re Gault - 387 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1428 (1967)


In connection with a juvenile court adjudication of "delinquency," the hearing must measure up to the essentials of due process and fair treatment, as a requirement which is part of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


Appellants' 15-year-old son, Gerald Gault, was taken into custody as the result of a complaint that he had made lewd telephone calls. After hearings before a juvenile court judge, Gerald was ordered committed to the State Industrial School as a juvenile delinquent until he should reach majority. Appellants brought a habeas corpus action in the state courts to challenge the constitutionality of the Arizona Juvenile Code and the procedure actually used in Gerald's case, on the ground of denial of various procedural due process rights. The State Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the writ. Agreeing that the constitutional guarantee of due process applies to proceedings in which juveniles are charged as delinquents, the court held that the Arizona Juvenile Code impliedly includes the requirements of due process in delinquency proceedings, and that such due process requirements were not offended by the procedure leading to Gerald's commitment.


Were Gerald and his parents denied due process rights with regard to Gerald’s charge of being delinquent?




The Court disagreed with the lower court's conclusion that the Gerald and his parents received due process. The delinquency petition was in general terms, and it was not served on the Gerald or his parents. In addition Gerald and his parents were not notified of Gerald's right to be represented by counsel. Gerald had been denied the rights of confrontation and cross-examination in the juvenile court hearings because the complaining neighbor was not called as a witness, and the privilege against self-incrimination was not observed because the Gerald’s confession was obtained out of the presence of his parents, without counsel, and without advising him of his right to remain silent.

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