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Volume 106

Note

“Are We There Yet?” No.: The Numbers That Support Adopting Automatic Appeals in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

Thomas G. Shannan, Cornell Law School’s Frank H.T. Rhodes 2021–2023 Public Interest Fellow, Citizens Concerned for Children, Inc.; J.D., Cornell Law School, 2021; B.S., Vanderbilt University, 2017.

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13 Nov 2021

The United States juvenile justice system is grossly inadequate on a national level. For over a century, juvenile courts in various forms have been heralded as benign mechanisms that offer an alternative for “troubled youth” who commit acts that would constitute crimes if committed by adults.1See, e.g., Youth in the Justice System: An Overview, JUV. L. CTR., https:// jlc.org/youth-justice-system-overview [https://perma.cc/3QHR-P4ES] (last visited June 15, 2020) (“Today’s juvenile justice system still maintains rehabilitation as its primary goal and distinguishes itself from the criminal justice system in important ways. With few exceptions, in most states delinquency is defined as the commission of a criminal act by a child . . . .”). Although the putative purpose of the juvenile courts is to rehabilitate children, those familiar with the world of juvenile justice know that the system as a whole often fails to live up to its stated intention.2See Natasha T´avora Baker, Rehabilitation via Arbitrariness: Why Commitment as a Dispositional Option in Washington, D.C.’s Juvenile Justice System Should Be Abolished, 22 U.C. DAVIS J. JUV. L. & POL’Y 135, 137 (2018) (“Across the country, the juvenile justice system holds out as its purpose the rehabilitation of the youth in its care. But delivery on that promise has been underwhelming at best.”). After all, the present juvenile justice system unconscionably impacts disproportionate numbers of children of color,3See Samantha Buckingham, Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice, 53 AM. CRIM. L. REV. 641, 651–52 (2016). encourages children to waive their right to counsel,4See Barry C. Feld, The Juvenile Court, in THE HANDBOOK OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT 519 (Michael Tonry ed., 1998) (“Juvenile court judges may encourage and readily find waivers of the right to counsel in order to ease their administrative burdens.”). Some juvenile justice experts hypothesize that several of these waivers are “induced by suggestions that lawyers are not needed because no serious dispositional consequences are anticipated,” thus likely failing to meet the constitutional standard that waivers be “knowing and intelligent.” PATRICIA PURITZ, SUE BURRELL, ROBERT SCHWARTZ, MARK SOLER & LOREN WARBOYS, AM. BAR ASS’N JUVENILE JUSTICE CTR., A CALL FOR JUSTICE: AN ASSESSMENT OF ACCESS TO COUNSEL AND QUALITY OF REPRESENTATION IN DELINQUENCY PROCEEDINGS 7–8 (1995) [hereinafter CALL FOR JUSTICE]. and regularly incarcerates tens of thousands of children, many of whom are accused of non-violent conduct.5See Wendy Sawyer, Youth Confinement: The Whole Pie 2019, PRISON POL’Y INITIATIVE (Dec. 19, 2019), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/youth2019.html [https://perma.cc/5KKF-PCBX]. In fact, nearly 26% of children in facilities have yet to be found delinquent and are instead incarcerated awaiting a full fact-finding or dispositional hearing. Id. And the list of shortcomings goes on.

This Note contributes to the ongoing and expanding literature on juvenile justice appeals and proceeds as follows. Part I retraces the history of the American juvenile courts by detailing the early common law principles that led to the first juvenile court, the introduction of criminal due process in juvenile delinquency proceedings, and the blatant transformation of the courts’ purpose from rehabilitative to punitive. Part II continues by briefly discussing the history of criminal appeals in the United States, focusing on the function of appellate review, the importance of appellate review in juvenile delinquency proceedings, and data from previously published studies on juvenile justice appeals. Part III introduces newly collected data on juvenile appeals—the most comprehensive assessment to date approximating the rate of delinquency appeals nationwide— and analyzes that data against prior findings. Lastly, Part IV proposes adopting legislation that requires automatic appellate review in all cases where a juvenile is adjudicated delinquent to guarantee that all children receive the opportunity for meaningful appellate review.

To read this Note, please click here: “Are We There Yet?” No.: The Numbers That Support Adopting Automatic Appeals in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings.

References

References
1 See, e.g., Youth in the Justice System: An Overview, JUV. L. CTR., https:// jlc.org/youth-justice-system-overview [https://perma.cc/3QHR-P4ES] (last visited June 15, 2020) (“Today’s juvenile justice system still maintains rehabilitation as its primary goal and distinguishes itself from the criminal justice system in important ways. With few exceptions, in most states delinquency is defined as the commission of a criminal act by a child . . . .”).
2 See Natasha T´avora Baker, Rehabilitation via Arbitrariness: Why Commitment as a Dispositional Option in Washington, D.C.’s Juvenile Justice System Should Be Abolished, 22 U.C. DAVIS J. JUV. L. & POL’Y 135, 137 (2018) (“Across the country, the juvenile justice system holds out as its purpose the rehabilitation of the youth in its care. But delivery on that promise has been underwhelming at best.”).
3 See Samantha Buckingham, Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice, 53 AM. CRIM. L. REV. 641, 651–52 (2016).
4 See Barry C. Feld, The Juvenile Court, in THE HANDBOOK OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT 519 (Michael Tonry ed., 1998) (“Juvenile court judges may encourage and readily find waivers of the right to counsel in order to ease their administrative burdens.”). Some juvenile justice experts hypothesize that several of these waivers are “induced by suggestions that lawyers are not needed because no serious dispositional consequences are anticipated,” thus likely failing to meet the constitutional standard that waivers be “knowing and intelligent.” PATRICIA PURITZ, SUE BURRELL, ROBERT SCHWARTZ, MARK SOLER & LOREN WARBOYS, AM. BAR ASS’N JUVENILE JUSTICE CTR., A CALL FOR JUSTICE: AN ASSESSMENT OF ACCESS TO COUNSEL AND QUALITY OF REPRESENTATION IN DELINQUENCY PROCEEDINGS 7–8 (1995) [hereinafter CALL FOR JUSTICE].
5 See Wendy Sawyer, Youth Confinement: The Whole Pie 2019, PRISON POL’Y INITIATIVE (Dec. 19, 2019), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/youth2019.html [https://perma.cc/5KKF-PCBX]. In fact, nearly 26% of children in facilities have yet to be found delinquent and are instead incarcerated awaiting a full fact-finding or dispositional hearing. Id.
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