Juvenile Courts in the United States

By Herbert H. Lou | Go to book overview
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Chapter VII
COURT HEARINGS

1. NATURE OF HEARINGS

AFTER the completion of the preliminary steps in court procedure--the making of complaint, the filing of petition, the issuance of summons or warrant, the taking of the child into custody, the study of the case and the child, and the failure or inadvisability of informal adjustment--the case must be formally heard by the court.

In order to secure the utmost possible simplicity, it has been found necessary in the hearing of children's cases to discard technicalities of procedure which are not absolutely necessary and which tend to confuse a child's mind. The juvenile-court statutes generally provide that the hearings are to be informal or summary in nature and conducted under such rules as the court may prescribe. Formal criminal procedure is inconsistent with the theory underlying the juvenile- court legislation, which treats the child not as a criminal but as a delinquent, "misdirected and misguided and needing aid, encouragement, help, and assistance," as it has been expressed in many statutes. It is important that all means should be taken to prevent the child and his parents from forming the conception that the child is being tried for a crime. The primary function of the judge is not to prove that the child is or is not guilty of an offense but to get from the child the truth, to weigh the results of the social, physical, and mental findings, to determine what the needs of the child are, and then to decide upon the treatment. To this end the proceedings of the court must be simple, summary, or informal without strict adherence to legal formalities. On the other hand, they are by no means arbitrary, irregular, undignified or without regard for law. Technicalities of procedure should be disregarded, but rules protecting substantial rights, such as regular process of law provided to produce evidence and to aid courts in testing and weighing it, will not be scrapped because the proceeding is a summary one.1 Thus, a tremendous responsibility is imposed upon the juvenile judge. In the words of Judge Charles W. Hoffman, "that the hear

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1
In re Hill, 247 Pac. 591 (Cal. App. 1926).

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