Without much conviction, Malika's attorney asks Kemp to release the girl on intensive probation so that she can attend school and, perhaps, receive more extensive services.

The judge asks Malika's mother what she has to say. The woman responds in a run-on sentence:

"She's been lying about her age and she has all these text messages coming in from older guys and I'm a single mom and I set up my job around her but she needs more help and discipline though she's not a really bad kid but she's just screwed up."

Kemp replies simply, "This report is really bad," referring to the probation officer's damning appraisal.

Malika speaks briefly.

"I was getting my grades up before my mom and me got into it again," she says. "I got some certificates. I earned them. You gotta let me out, please, sir. I'm ready to be good. I promise."

The judge isn't swayed. He tells her, "In my view, you are completely out of control. You need significant help. I'm going to keep you locked up until we can figure out the next step for you."

Malika briefly drops her tough-chick persona, her tears falling onto the table. Her mother tries to hug her, but the girl coldly turns away.

The courtroom clears. Kemp takes off his robe and steps to the gallery to speak with the elementary school kids who have been looking on intently.

"What's going to happen to her?" a 10-year-old girl asks of Malika.

"She's going to sit in there and wait, and eventually she'll get out, and she should," the judge says. "Meanwhile, her probation officer and other people are going to look for programs for her. We have to make sure that she's not going to hurt anyone or hurt herself. But she obviously has a lot of problems, and it's not going to be easy for her."

The student replies, "When I was 7 or 8, I was hanging out with some big kids in my neighborhood. But they got into trouble. One of them went to juvie. My mom finally put her foot down."

The school counselor asks for advice on how to keep her students, many of whom live in crime-ridden neighborhoods, from ending up like Malika.

"It's the basic stuff, the common-sense stuff," he says. "The going-to-school-every-day routine, the not-getting-into-drugs. The corny-but-true stuff. There are a lot of bad things and bad people out there."

Another student asks, "How do you go home after being a judge all day and not be sad?"

Kemp says, "I have a great wife and three great kids. And I do see some kids during the day who really are trying to make it out of the mess they're in. They're the ones who give me hope and keep me trying."


In 1967, when Michael Kemp was a boy in his native Illinois, juvenile judges alone determined the legal fates of children accused of breaking the law, and of those whose home lives were so disastrous as to demand court intervention.

Until then, juveniles virtually had no rights in court — no right to representation by a lawyer, no right to cross-examine witnesses, no protections against self-incrimination.

What the judge decided usually was the end of it.

The theory for generations had been that juvenile courts would serve as a sort of governmental parent in the stead of real parents. Civil liberties and due process of law never entered the equation.

In 1967, however, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a watershed decision in an Arizona case that forever altered juvenile law.

The case was called In Re Gault, after Gerry Gault, a boy from Globe.

In 1964, police accused Gault of making a lewd phone call to a local woman. Without the benefit of an attorney, the 15-year-old testified that a friend had made the offending call. But the juvenile judge did not believe him and sentenced Gault (who was on probation for shoplifting) to up to six years in a state reformatory.

An adult convicted of the same crime could have been incarcerated for no longer than two months. Gault served three years while his case was appealed by storied Phoenix attorney Amelia Lewis.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Gault's favor.

Justice Abe Fortas wrote for the majority that "under our Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court," and that juveniles do have rights.

Spurred on by Gault, juvenile law had been overhauled by the time Kemp was appointed to the county court bench in 2005.

Yes, kids now have rights they never had before, but those rights came with a generally unintended consequence:

For generations, Juvenile Court had been a place where rehabilitation, not punishment and retribution, was the dominant theme.

But by the mid-1980s and into the early 1990s, the growing rate of violent crimes committed nationwide by juveniles — and the spate of publicity about the kiddy "crime wave" — allowed law-and-order types an opening.

A November 1995 piece in the Weekly Standard titled "The Coming of the Super-Predator" served as a template for myriad politicians and policy-makers trying to bolster their tough-guy credibility with frightened voters.

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7 comments
friedland_law_center
friedland_law_center

Friedland Law Centeris a setup of trained mitigators work extensively with all major banks to reach resolutions on mortgage modifications and foreclosure matters.i strongly recommend to get their services.

friedland_law_center
friedland_law_center

Friedland Law Centeris a setup of trained mitigators work extensively with all major banks to reach resolutions on mortgage modifications and foreclosure matters.i strongly recommend to get their services.

mara siegel
mara siegel

Paul,

Just reread your article.

The article made me angry( as I am on a daly basis in Juv Ct) that St John's Christian R had to plead guilty yesterday to avoid Andy & Az Draconian Juvie transfer mandates.

A Hobson's choice for a 9 yr incompetent child to make.

I have been clandestinely advising behind as I am aMaricopa County Juv Public Defender, prohibited fr doing Pro Bono work o/side of the office. Call me if interested in case & its national ramifications

Mara Siegel602 320-7691

mara siegel
mara siegel

Paul,

Just reread your article.

The article made me angry( as I am on a daly basis in Juv Ct) that St John's Christian R had to plead guilty yesterday to avoid Andy & Az Draconian Juvie transfer mandates.

A Hobson's choice for a 9 yr incompetent child to make.

I have been clandestinely advising behind as I am aMaricopa County Juv Public Defender, prohibited fr doing Pro Bono work o/side of the office. Call me if interested in case & its national ramifications

Mara Siegel602 320-7691

Juvenile's Rights
Juvenile's Rights

This should give the public an idea of what is going on in the juvenile and family courts:

Editorial: Judges SentencedKids for cash

The setting is Pennsylvania coal country, but it's a story right out of Dickens' grim 19th-century landscape: Two of Luzerne County's most senior judges on Monday were accused of sending children to jail in return for kickbacks.

The judges, Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58, and his predecessor, Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, will serve seven years in jail under a plea agreement.

They're alleged to have pocketed $2.6 million in payments from juvenile detention center operators.

When a federal judge reviews their plea, though, the question ought to be whether the punishment is adequate - along with the judges being bounced from the bench, disbarred, and losing their pensions.

If the allegations are true, Ciavarella and Conahan were involved in a disgraceful cabal far worse than one that merely lined their pockets.First, the judges helped the detention centers land a county contract worth $58 million. Then their alleged scheme was to guarantee the operators a steady income by detaining juveniles, often on petty stuff.Many of the kids were railroaded, according to allegations lodged with the state Supreme Court last year by the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, an advocacy group.

In asking the court to intervene in April, the law center cited hundreds of examples where teens accused of minor mischief were pressured to waive their right to lawyers, and then shipped to a detention center.One teen was given a 90-day sentence for having parodied a school administrator online. Such unwarranted detentions left "both children and parents feeling bewildered, violated and traumatized," center lawyers said.

"Very few people would stand up" to the Luzerne judges, according to the law center's executive director, Robert G. Schwartz.Fortunately, Juvenile Law Center was willing to do so, along with backing from state Attorney General Tom Corbett's office and the state Department of Public Welfare.

The blind justices on the state's high court, though, took a pass. Only last month, they offered no explanation in declining to take up the law center's request that the court step up.

Now, the state Supreme Court should revisit the issue, since the scope of corruption alleged at the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre could further undermine confidence in the courts statewide.Authorities need to redress running roughshod over juveniles' rights - a process also likely to bring damage suits. While the local district attorney pledges to "do our best to right the situation," this calls for an independent, outside review.

The two judges' downfall may have rooted out the worst perpetrators of this evil scheme, but the abuse of power alleged in Luzerne County is so startling that it should send shock waves for reform around the state court system.

Andrew
Andrew

Just read the story; throughout I wondered "what did my parents do that these 'parents' didn't". I am not a parent myself, but it is obvious that my parents parented. They encouraged me in my education, went to PTA meetings and other such parent-teacher meetings, helped me schoolwork, got me educational material no matter what the cost (including a computer system, back in 1984, which led to me being a software developer and robotics enthusiast today). My dad has since passed away, and my wife and I take care of mother at our home now (dementia is a helluva thing). Parents need to take care of their kids, so that one day, hopefully, the kids can take care of their parents.

 
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