50th Anniversary of Kent v U.S.

Supreme Court decision that established due process for children turns 50

Justice Abe Fortas

“The right to counsel is not a formality. It is not a grudging gesture to ritualistic requirement. It is the essence of justice.” – Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, Kent  v U.S. (1966)

On March 21, 1966, native Memphian and Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote the majority opinion for Kent v U.S., the decision that would provide due     process for children. Before this landmark case, children could be transferred into the adult system without a formal hearing.  While only applying to transfer, the language in the Court’s opinion called into question what it saw as a general lack of due process in juvenile court proceedings.

One year later, Fortas would write the majority opinion for In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967) which would provide right to counsel for children.

Read this post written by one of our Shelby County public defenders about the Kent decision and what it means to the defense of children today:

The Decision That Sparked the Transformation of Juvenile Defense via The National Association of Public Defense