McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971)

2012-07-31 22:17:45

In McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court held that Fourteenth Amendment due process does not require a jury trial in juvenile court delinquency proceedings, which charge that a youth has committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult. McKeiver concluded that jury trials were not necessary to assure accurate fact finding in the rehabilitative juvenile court. Only three years earlier, the Court, in Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968), had called the criminal jury a ‘‘fundamental right, essential for preventing miscarriages of justice and assuring that fair trials are provided.’’

A few states have granted alleged delinquents a general right to jury trial under the state constitution or by statute or court rule. In most states, however, delinquency proceedings (like other juvenile court proceedings) are decided by the judge sitting without a jury.

States have enacted sweeping ‘‘get tough’’ juvenile justice legislation since McKeiver, but lower courts have rejected contentions that this legislation has made delinquency dispositions so much more punitive that the federal and state constitutions must now guarantee alleged delinquents a general right to a jury trial. In In re C.B., 708 So.2d 391 (La.1998), however, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the state constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial when the adjudicated delinquent may be incarcerated in an adult prison before or after reaching majority. In Monroe v. Soliz, 939 P.2d 205 (Wash.1997), however, the Washington Supreme Court held that potential adult incarceration does not trigger a state constitutional right because ‘‘[t]he nature of incarceration remains juvenile regardless of the custody venue.’’


References and Further Reading

  • Abrams, Douglas E., and Sarah H. Ramsey. Children and the Law—Doctrine, Policy and Practice, 2nd ed. St. Paul, MN: Thomson West, 2003, pp. 1178–1187.
  • Davis, Samuel M. Rights of Juveniles 2d: The Juvenile Justice System, 2005 ed. St. Paul, MN: West, 2005, pp. 271–279.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968)
  • In re C.B., 708 So.2d 391 (La.1998)
  • Monroe v. Soliz, 939 P.2d 205 (Wash.1997)

See also Due Process of Law (V and XIV); In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967); Jury Trial; Jury Trial Right