MCKEIVER V. PENNSYLVANIA, 403 U. S. 528 (1971)

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

McKeiver v. Pennsylvania

No. 322

Argued December 10, 1970

Decided June 21, 1971*

403 U.S. 528


The requests of appellants in No. 322 for a jury trial were denied, and they were adjudged juvenile delinquents under Pennsylvania law. The State Supreme Court, while recognizing the applicability to juveniles of certain due process procedural safeguards, held that there is no constitutional right to a jury trial in juvenile court. Appellants argue for a right to a jury trial because they were tried in proceedings "substantially similar to a criminal trial," and note that the press is generally present at the trial, and that members of the public also enter the courtroom. Petitioners in No. 128 were adjudged juvenile delinquents in North Carolina, where their jury trial requests were denied, and in proceedings where the general public was excluded.

Held: A trial by jury is not constitutionally required in the adjudicative phase of a state juvenile court delinquency proceeding. Pp. 403 U. S. 540-551, 403 U. S. 553-556.

No. 322, 438 Pa. 339, 265 A.2d 350, and No. 128, 275 N.C. 517, 169 S.E.2d 879, affirmed.


1. The applicable due process standard in juvenile proceedings is fundamental fairness, as developed by In re Gault, 387 U. S. 1, and In re Winship, 397 U. S. 358, which emphasized factfinding procedures, but, in our legal system, the jury is not a necessary component of accurate factfinding. P. 403 U. S. 543.

2. Despite disappointments, failures, and shortcomings in the juvenile court procedure, a jury trial is not constitutionally required in a juvenile court's adjudicative stage. Pp. 403 U. S. 545-550.

(a) The Court has not heretofore ruled that all rights constitutionally assured to an adult accused are to be imposed in a juvenile proceeding. P. 403 U. S. 545.

(b) Compelling a jury trial might remake the proceeding into a fully adversary process, and effectively end the idealistic prospect of an intimate, informal protective proceeding. P. 403 U. S. 545.

(c) Imposing a jury trial on the juvenile court system would not remedy the system's defects, and would not greatly strengthen the factfinding function. P. 403 U. S. 547.

Page 403 U. S. 529

(d) The States should be free to experiment to achieve the high promise of the juvenile court concept, and they may install a jury system; or a juvenile court judge may use an advisory jury in a particular case. P. 403 U. S. 547.

(e) Many States, by statute or judicial decision, deny a juvenile a right to jury trial, and the great majority that have faced that issue since Gault, supra, and Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, have concluded that the considerations involved in those cases do not compel trial by jury in juvenile court. Pp. 403 U. S. 548-549.

(f) Jury trial would entail delay, formality, and clamor of the adversary system, and possibly a public trial. P. 403 U. S. 550.

(g) Equating the adjudicative phase of the juvenile proceeding with a criminal trial ignores the aspects of fairness, concern, sympathy, and paternal attention inherent in the juvenile court system. P. 403 U. S. 550.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN concluded that:

Due process in juvenile delinquency proceedings, which are not "criminal prosecutions," does not require the States to provide jury trials on demand so long as some other aspect of the process adequately protects the interests that Sixth Amendment jury trials are intended to serve. In the juvenile context, those interests may be adequately protected by allowing accused individuals to bring the community's attention to bear upon their trials. Since Pennsylvania has no statutory bar to public juvenile trials, and since no claim is made that members of the public were excluded over appellants' objections, the judgment in No. 322 should be affirmed. Pp. 403 U. S. 553-556.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN concurred in the judgments in these cases on the ground that criminal jury trials are not constitutionally required of the States, either by the Sixth Amendment or by due process. P. 403 U. S. 557.

BLACKMUN, J., announced the Court's judgments and delivered an opinion in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART and WHITE, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 403 U. S. 551. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in No. 322 and dissenting in No. 128, post, p. 403 U. S. 553. HARLAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgments, post, p. 403 U. S. 557. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACK and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 403 U. S. 557.

Page 403 U. S. 530

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