Two juveniles, G.A.W. and J.C.B., were adjudicated delinquent for the same attempted robbery and criminal sexual assault. Both were tried and sentenced by a judge to 15-year indeterminate terms of imprisonment, not to exceed their 21st birthdays, and both were required to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Neither boy was entitled to a jury trial.
Juvenile Law Center submitted an amicus brief, along with the National Juvenile Defender Center, in support of G.A.W.’s petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that juveniles facing severe consequences such as sex offender registration are entitled to a jury trial. Juvenile Law Center’s brief argues that the right to a jury trial provides a fundamental protection to ensure fairness and to provide a check on the power of the judiciary. The brief asks the court to revisit its opinion in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971). In McKeiver the Supreme Court held in a plurality decision that juveniles had no constitutional right to a jury trial, in large part because of the Court’s concern that a jury trial would make the juvenile system overly adversarial. Juvenile Law Center’s brief argues that in the decades since McKeiver, the juvenile justice system has become more like the criminal justice system, with more adversarial procedures and harsher sanctions, particularly in the context of sex offender registration and notification laws. In light of these changes, the brief argues that juveniles should have the right a jury trial.
The Petition for Certiorari is pending in the United States Supreme Court.