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Juvenile Law
University of Connecticut School of Law
Webster, Athur

JUVENILE LAW OUTLINE – Children and the Law (In a Nutshell)
Chapter 1 THE STATUS, RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF CHILDREN
A.     AN INTRODUCTION TO THE JUVENILE COURT SYSTEM
1.      Juvi courts have exclusive original jurisdiction over 4 major categories of proceedings:
a.       Abuse and neglect
b.      Adoption
c.       Status offenses – misconduct sanctionable only where the person committing it is a juvi
d.      Delinquency
2.      Unified Family courts – enable one specialist judge working with social service workers and other support personnel to resolve all matters typically associated with distressed families.
B.     THE NATURE AND SOURCES OF CHILDREN’S STATUS, RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
1.      THE PARENS PATRIAE DOCTRINE (“parent of the country”)
a.       Confers state authority to protect or promote a particular child’s welfare
b.      Justice Story pp 8 Nutshell
c.       Issues:
                                                                           i.      May be affected by the reluctance of public authorities to intervene in family affairs and regulate conduct within the family
                                                                         ii.      If the state investigates the perpetrator and arouses anger without stopping the abuse, investigation may provoke even greater family violence
2.      THE POLICE POWER
a.       States inherent plenary authority to promote the public health, safety and welfare generally
3.      THE CHILD’S DUTY TO OBEY
a.       The law’s expectation that children would obey their parents’ wishes is implicit in Meyer and Pierce, the Supreme Court’s early decisions granting parents a substantive due process right to direct their children’s upbringing free from unreasonable government intervention.
C.     THE LAW’S EVOLVING CONCEPTION OF CHILDREN’S STATUS, RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
1.      THE TRADITIONAL ROLES OF PARENTS AND THE GOVERNMENT
a.       Neither Constitution nor the Bill of Rights speaks explicitly about the status, rights and obligations of children or parents
2.      MEYER, PIERCE AND PARENTAL PEROGATIVES
a.       Meyer v. Nebraska – reversed a parochial schoolteacher’s conviction for teaching the German language. The ct held that the statute permitting instruction only in English below the 8th grade violated the due process liberty interest of the teacher to teach in German and of the parents to hire him to do so. Meyer recognized a parent’s due process liberty interest in “establishing a home and bringing up children”. The court also acknowledged the state’s parens patriae authority “to compel attendance at some school and to make reasonable regulations for all schools and to prescribe a curriculum for institutions which it supports. Meyer held that the parental interest prevailed in this case but the Court’s weighing process made no mention of any interest constitutional or otherwise held by the students”
b.      Pierce v. Society of Sisters – struck do

on. Gault undermined the state’s parens patriae authority to exercise informal discretion in delinquency proceedings virtually free of procedural guarantees available to adults charged with crimes
d.      SUMMARY – Prince outlined the child’s interest. Brown and Gault framed the disputes as pitting the government against the children named as parties and then vindicated the children’s position. Brown vindicated the children’s substantive constitutional rights, and Gault vindicated their procedural constitutional rights.
5.      TINKER AND THE ZENITH OF CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
a.       Tinker v. Des Moines – ct upheld the 1st Amendment rights of 3 students to wear black armbands in their public schools to express their opposition to the Vietnam War – by holding that students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the school house gate, the ct indicated that children don’t shed other rights at the gate or elsewhere
Goss v. Lopez – ct held that where a state guarantees children a free public education, public school students have a 1th Amendment property interest in that guarantee and a liberty interest in not having their reputations sullied by suspension for less than good cause