On Monday, May 16, the National Juvenile Defender Center will kick off itsGault at 50 Campaign with the release of the campaign’s Statement of Principles and an expert panel presentation. Fifty years ago, in the landmark decision In re Gault, the United States Supreme Court said that children have a constitutional right to counsel. The Gault at 50 Campaign is a year-long initiative to commemorate the 50 th anniversary of the Gault decision, celebrate the progress America has made since that ruling, and highlight where we have fallen short of providing children access to justice.
On May 15, 1967 the Supreme Court said children have the same basic rights in America’s courtrooms as adults when they are prosecuted. These rights include the right to counsel, the right to notice of charges against them, the right to remain silent, and the right to cross-examine witnesses. In the Gaultopinion Justice Abe Fortas wrote, “Under our Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court,” and asserted that children need the guidance of a lawyer throughout their case.
More than one million times per year, children in America are charged with crimes in juvenile court. The overwhelming majority of children in delinquency courts are prosecuted for non-violent offenses like disturbing the peace, school fights, and petty theft – normal adolescent misconduct. Children need a skilled attorney to protect their rights and help them become successful adults in a country that incarcerates more children than any other in the world.
Recognizing the crisis, former Attorney General Eric Holder stated in a 2015 speech, “For too long, the Supreme Court’s promise of fairness for young people accused of delinquency has gone unfulfilled in courts across our country.” The importance of providing effective attorneys to children in courts was also highlighted by the National Juvenile Defender Center’s Executive Director Kim Dvorchak in a TEDx talk on April 23, 2016 when she said, “It is common sense but not common practice to provide youth specialized attorneys in juvenile court.”
The Gault at 50 Campaign seeks to ensure that every child has an effective attorney in America’s juvenile courts. For more information see www.gaultat50.org.
Please join us as we launch the Gault at 50 campaign on Monday, May 16 in Washington, DC. The event will feature remarks from youth, juvenile defense leaders, and more. Seats are limited; please RSVP.
Monday, May 16, 2016 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM EST
True Reformer Building
1200 U Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
National Juvenile Defender Center