513 F.2d 5 (10th Cir. 1975), 74-1312, United States v. Watts

Docket Nº:74-1312.
Citation:513 F.2d 5
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Duane WATTS, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:March 17, 1975
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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513 F.2d 5 (10th Cir. 1975)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Duane WATTS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 74-1312.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

March 17, 1975

Argued Jan. 20, 1975.

James L. Treece, U. S. Atty., and Robert R. Marshall, Asst. U. S. Atty., Denver, Colo., for appellee.

Irvin L. Mason, Durango, Colo., for appellant.

Before SETH, HOLLOWAY, and BARRETT, Circuit Judges.

BARRETT, Circuit Judge.

Duane Watts (Watts) appeals from the Trial Court's judgment finding him

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guilty of involuntary manslaughter and adjudging him to be a Juvenile Delinquent under the provisions of the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 5031-5037.

Watts, an Indian and a minor aged 17 at the time of the alleged offense, was initially charged by complaint with the offense of murder arising from the stabbing death of his brother, Calvert Watts. He was thereafter indicted for voluntary manslaughter. Subsequently, upon failure of the United States Department of Justice to consent to Watts' being charged as an adult, and with the consent of Watts and his counsel, the prior indictment was dismissed and an Information, charging Juvenile Delinquency-Manslaughter, was filed. At trial Watts attempted, unsuccessfully, to establish that he had acted in self defense in stabbing his brother during an altercation.

On this appeal Watts contends: (1) that his right to due process was violated by reason of the failure of adequate notice being provided to his parents; and (2) that the Trial Court erred in allowing the prosecution to make use of grand jury proceedings against him.


Watts' chief allegation, i. e., that he was denied due process because his parents were not given notice of the charges against him, nor were they advised of his right to counsel, etc., is premised solely upon the Supreme Court's landmark decision in In Re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.Ed.2d 527 (1967). While Watts baldly claims that the federal courts have consistently followed the Supreme Court's mandate in this regard, he has cited no cases squarely holding on this point, nor have we, through our own research, uncovered any such authority. The question of whether the failure of notice to a juvenile's parents, standing alone, constitutes sufficient grounds for the reversal of a determination of juvenile delinquency under the Federal Act, we find to be of first impression before this court.

In establishing standards for the type of notice which would comport with due process requirements for juvenile delinquency proceedings, the Court in Gault held:

Notice, to comply with due process requirements, must be given sufficiently in advance of scheduled court proceedings so that reasonable opportunity to prepare will be afforded, and it must "set forth the alleged misconduct with particularity." . . . even if there were a conceivable purpose served by the deferral proposed by the court below, it would have to yield to the requirements that the child and his parents or guardian be notified, in writing, of the specific charge or factual allegations to be considered at the hearing, and that such written notice be given at the earliest practicable time, and in any event sufficiently in advance of the hearing to permit preparation. Due process of law requires notice of the sort we have described that is, notice which would be deemed constitutionally adequate in a civil or criminal proceeding. It does not allow a hearing to be held in which a youth's freedom and his parents' right to his custody are at stake without giving them timely notice, in advance of the hearing, of the specific issues that they must meet. (Emphasis supplied).

387 U.S. at 33-34, 87 S.Ct. at 1446.

While Gault, supra, dealt specifically with the constitutionality of a state scheme for juvenile proceedings, the rights enumerated by that decision are based upon protections afforded by the United States Constitution and, consequently, we view them to be equally applicable to federal proceedings dealing with juvenile offenders under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act. 1

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Although the express language in Gault requiring that notice be given to both the juvenile and his parents is unequivocal, we are not convinced that the failure of such notice to the parents must lead in all cases to the automatic reversal of the juvenile's adjudication as a delinquent.

Our review of the decision in Gault and our search of other authorities does not convince us that there exists a separate and independent due process right to notice of delinquency proceedings belonging to the parents of the juvenile defendant, Watts. 2 However, because the parents are not parties to the present action we need not now decide whether such a right exists, and if so whether it has been violated. Further, we do not and need not decide what remedy may be available or appropriate.

Instead, our concern on this appeal is solely with whether a violation of the standard established in Gault requiring that notice be given to a juvenile's parents constitutes such a deprivation of the juvenile's right to due process as to, per se, require a reversal of the determination of his delinquency.

Preliminarily, we note the following language from the Supreme Court's recent decision in Goss v. Lopez, --- U.S. ---, 95 S.Ct. 729, 42 L.Ed.2d 725

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(1975), which concerned the type of due process notice which must be given students prior to their suspension:

. . . the interpretation and application of the Due Process Clause are intensely practical matters and . . . "the very nature of due process negates any concept of inflexible procedures universally applicable to every imaginable situation." Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U.S. 886, 895 (81 S.Ct. 1743, 6 L.Ed.2d 1230) (1961). (Emphasis added).

--- U.S. at ---, 95 S.Ct. at 738.

Similarly, we find applicable the Court's statement in Gault that the due process standards established therein are to be...

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