Professor Virginia Jeronimus
14 May 2016
Land Mark Cases
Every court system can be altered and changed forever passed on a single case. We have seen this through the years with many cases such as Arizona v. Miranda where the reading one’s rights was established; the appropriately named Miranda Rights. The juvenile justice system is no different as there are a number of cases that have changed proceeding and how juveniles are to be handled in the court system.
In 1899 the Illinois Juvenile Court Act was passed. This was due to the work from the Child Saving Movement where the activist called for governmental intervention with acts with children in regards to drinking and other activities (Siegel, Welsh, 465). These were originally handled privately by the family but it became a high concern. The Illinois Juvenile Court Act established a separate court system for juveniles under the age of 16 (Siegel, Welsh, 474). The legislature also allowed the juveniles to be “committed to institutions and reform program under the control of the state” (Siegel, Welsh, 474). Key provision of this act included the following: special procedures were developed to govern the adjudication of the juvenile matters, children were to be separated from adults in courts and in institutional programs, and that probation programs were to be developed to assist the courts in making decision in the best interests of the state and child (Siegel, Welsh, 474).
A key landmark case regarding juvenile court system is the case of Graham v. Flordia. Prior to 2010 juveniles could face sentences such as life without parole even fi the crime wasn’t a homicide. This changed in Graham v. Florida when the state ruled that it was a violation of the eighth amendment (Three Supreme Court Cases That Have Shaped Juvenile Justice, PBS). The eight amendment rules that cruel and unusual punishment as unconstitutional. It should be noted at not all states have followed Florida’s example.
Another important case was of Roper v. Simmons. This was actually a monumental case as it reversed a 1989 court decision which allowed youth under the age of 16 to either life in prison or the death penalty (Three Supreme Court Cases That Have Shaped Juvenile Justice, PBS). In Roper v. Simmons it was as unconstitutional, due to the eighth amendment once again, to sentence a youth under the age of 16 to either of those sentences (Three Supreme Court Cases That Have Shaped Juvenile Justice, PBS).
PBS also mentions the case of Miller v. Alabama, which resembles the previous two cases. This case in 2012 rules that sentencing someone under the age of 18 to life without parole sentences (Three Supreme Court Cases That Have Shaped Juvenile Justice, PBS). This ruling established a requirement for the judge to consider the age of the offender prior to sentencing sentences (Three Supreme Court Cases That Have Shaped Juvenile Justice, PBS). Once again the Eighth Amendment plays a role.
A more daunting court decision came in 1966. The case above are consideration for the juvenile offender, however this ruling concerns the safety of the community. In 1966 the case of Kent v. United States ruled that a juvenile could be tried as an adult after considering the severity of the crime, the offender’s age, and the offender’s criminal history (Jacobs, 10 Supreme Court Cases Every Teen Should Know).
These are predominantly best known cases, and the ones that have had the biggest effect on the modern day juvenile justice system. As time goes on, there will be more landmark case that will change proceedings. These cases will stir up controversy as these did. But in the end, the courts have to focus on what is best for both juveniles and the communities that they reside.
Siegel, Larry J., Welsh, Brandon C. Juvenile Delinquency: Theory Practice and Law. Cengage Learning. 2015. Print
Jacobs, Tom. 10 Supreme Cases Every Teen Should Know. NY Times. Web.
PBS. Three Supreme Court Cases That Have Changed Juvenile Justice. Web.