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Freedom of the Press v Juvenile Anonymity - A Conflict Between Constitutional Priorities and Rehabilitation

NCJ Number
Iowa Law Review Volume: 65 Issue: 5 Dated: (July 1980) Pages: 1471-1496
A R Kintzinger
Date Published
26 pages
The juvenile justice system's predmoninant philosophy that the anonymity of youthful offenders must be preserved to ensure their rehabilitation was challenged by a 1979 Supreme Court decision.
The interests of an unfettered press, protected by the first amendment, and the constitutionality of laws and statutes prohibiting publication of the names of juvenile offenders have long been in conflict. The legal status prohibiting media disclosure of alleged juvenile offenders' names during pending juvenile proceedings was settled by a Supreme Court decision which permitted a newspaper to publish the name of a 14-year old boy who had fatally shot a junior high school classmate; reporters lawfully obtained the name prior to the commencement of proceedings. Although this decision involved a specific case with well-delineated limitations and circumstances, it inevitably reduces the means of ensuring juvenile anonymity available to the States. Moreover, it represents a significant departure from a past pattern of Court decisions that recognized the important role of confidentiality in attaining the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile justice system. It appears likely, in combination with other decisions (reviewed in this study), to favor the public's right to know and the public outcries against increasing juvenile delinquency over the confidentiality requirements in the interests of juveniles. Even first offenders, when exposed by media publicity, often face long-term adverse consequences (e.g., stigmatization, community hostility, loss of prospective employment, and denial of educational opportunities) because of public reaction to juvenile crimes. The legal and public policy issues raised by disclosure of the identity of alleged juvenile offenders should be weighed against the possible abridgment of first amendment rights of the press. The text contains 190 footnotes, many with bibliographic and legal references.