467 U.S. 253 (1984), 82-1248, Schall v. Martin

Docket Nº:No. 82-1248
Citation:467 U.S. 253, 104 S.Ct. 2403, 81 L.Ed.2d 207
Party Name:Schall v. Martin
Case Date:June 04, 1984
Court:United States Supreme Court

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467 U.S. 253 (1984)

104 S.Ct. 2403, 81 L.Ed.2d 207




No. 82-1248

United States Supreme Court

June 4, 1984

Argued January 17, 1984




Section 320.5(3)(b) of the New York Family Court Act authorizes pretrial detention of an accused juvenile delinquent based on a finding that there is a "serious risk" that the juvenile "may before the return date commit an act which if committed by an adult would constitute a crime." Appellees, juveniles who had been detained under § 320.5(3)(b), brought a habeas corpus class action in Federal District Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that § 320.5(3)(b) violates, inter alia, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court struck down the statute as permitting detention without due process and ordered the release of all class members. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, since the vast majority of juveniles detained under the statute either have their cases dismissed before an adjudication of delinquency or are released after adjudication, the statute is administered, not for preventive purposes, but to impose punishment for unadjudicated criminal acts, and that therefore the statute is unconstitutional as to all juveniles.

Held: Section 320.5(3)(b) is not invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 263-281.

(a) Preventive detention under the statute serves the legitimate state objective, held in common with every State, of protecting both the juvenile and society from the hazards of pretrial crime. That objective is compatible with the "fundamental fairness" demanded by the Due Process Clause in juvenile proceedings, and the terms and condition of confinement under § 320.5(3)(b) are compatible with that objective. Pretrial detention need not be considered punishment merely because a juvenile is subsequently discharged subject to conditions or put on probation. And even when a case is terminated prior to factfinding, it does not follow that the decision to detain the juvenile pursuant to § 320.5(3)(b) amounts to a due process violation. Pp. 264-274.

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(b) The procedural safeguards afforded by the Family Court Act to juveniles detained under § 320.5(3)(b) prior to factfinding provide sufficient protection against erroneous and unnecessary deprivations of liberty. Notice, a hearing, and a statement of facts and reasons are given to the juvenile prior to any detention, and a formal probable cause hearing is then held within a short time thereafter, if the factfinding hearing is not itself scheduled within three days. There is no merit to the argument that the risk of erroneous and [104 S.Ct. 2405] unnecessary detention is too high despite these procedures because the standard for detention is fatally vague. From a legal point of view, there is nothing inherently unattainable about a prediction of future criminal conduct. Such a prediction is an experienced one based on a host of variables that cannot be readily codified. Moreover, the post-detention procedures -- habeas corpus review, appeals, and motions for reconsideration -- provide a sufficient mechanism for correcting on a case-by-case basis any erroneous detention. Pp. 274-281.

689 F.2d 365, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 281.

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REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 320.5(3)(b) of the New York Family Court Act authorizes pretrial detention of an accused juvenile delinquent based on a finding that there is a "serious risk" that the child "may before the return date commit an act which if committed by an adult would constitute a crime."1 Appellees brought suit on behalf of a class of all juveniles detained pursuant

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to that provision.2 The District Court struck down § 320.5(3)(b) as permitting detention without due process of law and ordered the immediate release of all class members. United States ex rel. Martin v. Strasburg, 513 F.Supp. 691 (SDNY 1981). The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, holding the provision "unconstitutional as to all juveniles" because the statute is administered in such a way that

the detention period serves as punishment imposed without proof of guilt established according to the requisite constitutional standard.

Martin v. Strasburg, 689 F.2d 365, 373-374 (1982). We noted probable jurisdiction, 460 U.S. 1079 (1983),3 and now reverse. We conclude that preventive detention under [104 S.Ct. 2406] the FCA serves a legitimate state

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objective, and that the procedural protections afforded pretrial detainees by the New York statute satisfy the requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.


Appellee Gregory Martin was arrested on December 13, 1977, and charged with first-degree robbery, second-degree assault, and criminal possession of a weapon based on an incident in which he, with two others, allegedly hit a youth on the head with a loaded gun and stole his jacket and sneakers. See Petitioners' Exhibit lb. Martin had possession of the gun when he was arrested. He was 14 years old at the time and, therefore, came within the jurisdiction of New York's Family Court.4 The incident occurred at 11:30 at night, and Martin lied to the police about where and with whom he lived. He was consequently detained overnight.5

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A petition of delinquency was filed,6 and Martin made his "initial appearance" in Family Court on December 14th, accompanied by his grandmother.7 The Family Court Judge, citing the possession of the loaded weapon, the false address given to the police, and the lateness of the hour as evidencing a lack of supervision, ordered Martin detained under § 320.5(3)(b) (at that time § 739(a)(ii); see n. 2, supra). A probable cause hearing was held five days later, [104 S.Ct. 2407] on December 19th, and probable cause was found to exist for all the crimes charged. At the factfinding hearing held December 27-29, Martin was found guilty on the robbery and criminal possession charges. He was adjudicated a delinquent and

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placed on two years' probation.8 He had been detained pursuant to § 320.5(3)(b), between the initial appearance and the completion of the factfinding hearing, for a total of 15 days.

Appellees Luis Rosario and Kenneth Morgan, both age 14, were also ordered detained pending their factfinding hearings. Rosario was charged with attempted first-degree robbery and second-degree assault for an incident in which he, with four others, allegedly tried to rob two men, putting a gun to the head of one of them and beating both about the head with sticks. See Petitioners' Exhibit 2b. At the time of his initial appearance, on March 15, 1978, Rosario had another delinquency petition pending for knifing a student, and two prior petitions had been adjusted.9 Probable cause was

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found on March 21. On April 11, Rosario was released to his father, and the case was terminated without adjustment on September 25, 1978.

Kenneth Morgan was charged with attempted robbery and attempted grand larceny for an incident in which he and another boy allegedly tried to steal money from a 14-year-old girl and her brother by threatening to blow their heads off and grabbing them to search their pockets. See Petitioners' Exhibit 3b. Morgan, like Rosario, was on release status on another petition (for robbery and criminal possession of stolen property) at the time of his initial appearance on March 27, 1978. He had been arrested four previous times, and his mother refused to come to court because he had been in trouble so often she did not want [104 S.Ct. 2408] him home. A probable cause hearing was set for March 30, but was continued until April 4, when it was combined with a factfinding hearing. Morgan was found guilty of harassment and petit larceny, and was ordered placed with the Department of Social Services for 18 months. He was detained a total of eight days between his initial appearance and the factfinding hearing.

On December 21, 1977, while still in preventive detention pending his factfinding hearing, Gregory Martin instituted a

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habeas corpus class action on behalf of "those persons who are, or during the pendency of this action will be, preventively detained pursuant to" § 320.5(3)(b) of the FCA. Rosario and Morgan were subsequently added as additional named plaintiffs. These three class representatives sought a declaratory judgment that § 320.5(3)(b) violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In an unpublished opinion, the District Court certified the class. App. 20-32.10 The court also held that appellees were not required to exhaust their state remedies before resorting to federal habeas, because the highest state court had already rejected an identical challenge to the juvenile preventive detention statute. See People ex rel. Wayburn v. Schupf, 39 N.Y.2d 682, 350 N.E.2d 906 (1976). Exhaustion of state remedies, therefore, would be "an exercise in futility." App. 26.

At trial, appellees offered in evidence the case histories of 34 members of the class, including the three named petitioners. Both parties presented some general statistics on the relation between pretrial detention and ultimate disposition. In addition, there was testimony concerning juvenile proceedings from a number of witnesses, including a legal aid attorney specializing in juvenile cases, a probation supervisor, a child psychologist, and a Family Court Judge. On the basis of this evidence, the District Court rejected the equal protection challenge as "insubstantial,"11 but agreed...

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