Acknowledging and Protecting against Judicial Bias at Fact-Finding in Juvenile Court

By Loveland, Prescott | Fordham Urban Law Journal, December 2017 | Go to article overview

Acknowledging and Protecting against Judicial Bias at Fact-Finding in Juvenile Court


Loveland, Prescott, Fordham Urban Law Journal


TABLE OF CONTENTS  Introduction                                                  285 I. A Brief History of the Jury Trial and of Juvenile Court    285   A. The American Jury Trial                                  286   B. The American Juvenile Court                              287   C. Constitutional Rights in Juvenile Court                  290   D. McKeiver: No Right to a Jury Trial in Juvenile Court   Under the Constitution                                      292 II. Judicial Bias in Juvenile Court: A Reality Often Ignored  293   A. Judicial Biases that Can Undermine Juvenile Court      Fact-Finding                                             293     1. Bias from Exposure to Inadmissible Information         294     2. Political Bias                                         295     3. Situational Bias                                       296     4. Bias from Having Multiple Roles and a Repetitive        Job                                                    298     5. Corruption Bias                                        299     6. Racial Bias                                            301   B. The Protective Features of a Jury Trial 304     1. Group Decision-Making                                  304     2. Voir Dire                                              305     3. Jury Instructions                                      306   C. Critiques of the Jury System                             306 III. Limiting Judicial Bias in Juvenile Court                 308   A. In Re L.M.: The Kansas Supreme Court Extends the      Jury Protection to Juveniles                             309   B. Ways (Other than a Jury) to Protect Against Judicial      Bias                                                     310     1. Ensuring Different Judges for Different Phases of        the Case                                               310     2. Recusal                                                311     3. Seeking Advisory Juries and Group Deliberation         311     4. Utilizing Jury Instructions in Bench Trials            312     5. Managing Situational Biases Through Increased        Self-Awareness                                         312     6. Understanding and Limiting the Influence of        Implicit Bias                                          312   C. The Importance of Juveniles Perceiving Juvenile      Court to Be Fair                                         315 Conclusion                                                    316 

INTRODUCTION

Judges, not juries, are the fact-finders in juvenile court because most states do not recognize a jury right for juveniles. (1) Failing to adequately protect juveniles from the biases of juvenile court judges can lead to innocent juveniles and their families being involved in a juvenile justice system that has very serious consequences. This Essay outlines how judges came to be the fact-finders in juvenile court and explains ways that juvenile court judges are uniquely susceptible to several types of bias that can undermine fact-finding. (2) The distorting influence of judicial biases can lead to inaccurate fact-finding and, in turn, to the improper adjudication of children as "delinquent." Further, the failure to limit apparent bias can lead juveniles to perceive juvenile court as inherently unfair, thereby undermining their willingness to participate and their broader opinion of the justice system. The risk of judicial bias at fact-finding in juvenile court can and should be minimized by using juries or other protective procedures. (3)

Part I of this Essay provides a brief history of the jury trial and of juvenile courts. Part I also discusses the procedural protections that the Supreme Court has extended to juvenile court, and the Court's decision in McKeiver to not extend a constitutional jury trial right to juvenile court. Part II describes various forms of judicial bias that can undermine fact-finding in juvenile court and it briefly discusses some features of the jury trial system that can shield against bias. …

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