Book Review

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Book Review

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In his engaging The Supreme Court and Juvenile Justice, political scientist Christopher P. Manfredi argues that Americans in the 1990s are still feeling the powerful and unintended consequences of a trilogy of Supreme Court decisions, Kent v. United States (1966), In re Gault (1967), and In re Winship (1970). In Gault, the most famous of these cases, Justice Abe Fortas announced that it was time for the “constitutional domestication” of the nation’s juvenile courts and began this process by extending limited due process protection to offenders during adjudicatory hearings. Fortas believed that these protections would shield juveniles from unlimited judicial discretion, while still retaining the juvenile court’s founding ideals of individualized treatment and rehabilitation that are embodied in the legal concept of parens patriae (the state as father/parent). Manfredi, however, claims that constitutional domestication instead undermined “the traditional assumptions of juvenile justice policy” and facilitated legislative reform by unclogging the channels of political change.” Once under way, this reform process led to the criminalization of juvenile justice and the establishment of individual responsibility and retribution as its new twin ideals. Thus, Manfredi concludes that even court-ordered reform of a legal system, an area in which judges are experts, can be a risky business.

Publication Citation

17 Law & Hist. Rev. 415 (1999) (reviewing Christopher P. Manfredi, The Supreme Court and Juvenile Justice (1998)).