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Law School Case Brief

Kent v. United States - 383 U.S. 541, 86 S. Ct. 1045 (1966)


A waiver hearing to be held under D.C. Code Ann. § 11-1553 (1965) need not conform with all of the requirements of a criminal trial or even of the usual administrative hearing; but the hearing must measure up to the essentials of due process and fair treatment.


After petitioner Morris A. Kent, Jr., who was then a minor subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the District of Columbia Juvenile Court, had been interrogated by the police and had admitted that he had participated in various offenses involving housebreaking, robbery, and rape, the Juvenile Court entered an order waiving its exclusive jurisdiction and authorizing the petitioner to be criminally prosecuted in the District Court for the District of Columbia. Although the order recited that it was based on "full investigation," the court had failed to grant or to rule on motions by Kent's counsel that a hearing be held and that he be given access to Kent’s social records and probation and similar reports which would be available to the Juvenile Court in considering whether to waive or retain jurisdiction; moreover, the order recited no reason for granting the waiver, and it made no reference to the motions filed by petitioner's counsel. After Kent was indicted in the District Court on several different counts, the petitioner's motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the waiver was invalid was denied, and Kent was found guilty on certain counts and sentenced to serve 30 to 90 years in prison. The conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (119 App DC 378, 343 F2d 247.) Petitioner sought further review.


Was juvenile defendant Kent’s criminal conviction proper, where the juvenile court, without a hearing, entered an order waiving its jurisdiction and no "full investigation" as required by statute?




On a writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the order that had affirmed the juvenile's criminal convictions. The Court held that waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction was a "critically important" action that entitled juveniles to a hearing with assistance of counsel, access to records, and a statement of reasons. It noted that prior knowledge of a juvenile and his record was not sufficient to meet D.C. Code Ann. § 11-1553's requirement of "full investigation" and that legal counsel was not limited to merely bringing forward additional information for the court to consider. The Court held that basic due process applied to waiver decisions. 

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