The Supreme Court and Juvenile Justice

Christopher P. Manfredi

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Over the past century, attitudes toward juvenile crime have alternated between rehabilitation and crime control, and even now are being revised in response to increasing gang violence. But by the 1960s, it had become obvious that juvenile offenders were being deprived of fundamental rights, leading Supreme Court Justice Fortas to declare that "neither the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults alone."

“Manfredi’s analysis of the juvenile justice system and his accounts of the court decisions are exceptional. The pages turn quickly as the reader is taken through the intricacies of the trial and appellate stages.

—Canadian Journal of Political Science

“Manfredi, a thorough and effective story-teller, has provided a tale of important litigation which is a major substantive contribution for those interested in the juvenile courts.

—Law and Politics Book Review
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The Supreme Court and Juvenile Justice takes in a century of change to focus on how the Supreme Court brought the juvenile court system under constitutional control. It describes in detail the case of Gerald Gault, an Arizona teenager who was sent to reform school for making an obscene phone call. Christopher Manfredi takes readers behind the scenes in this case to review its progress through the judicial system, discuss all pertinent briefs, and analyze the Supreme Court's 1967 decision that Gault had been denied due process.

As background to Gault, Manfredi also examines Kent v. United States (1966), which involved a juvenile accused of rape and robbery who was handed over to criminal court. He then reviews the significant cases following Gault—notably In re Winship (1970) and McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971)-and considers how the Supreme Court's "constitutional domestication" of juvenile courts affected further development of juvenile justice policy.

In re Gault was the first and most extensive decision imposing constitutionally-derived standards of due process on juvenile courts; yet it has received little attention in the literature because of its lack of drama and visibility. In showing how juvenile court reform became part of the constitutional agenda of the 1960s, Manfredi demonstrates why Gault became the principal vehicle for carrying out that reform and provides a means for better understanding the nature and limitations of social reform litigation.

About the Author

Christopher Manfredi is associate professor of political science at McGill University and the author of Judicial Power and the Charter: Canada and the Paradox of Liberal Constitutionalism.