ing his commitment to the
State Industrial School, would not be destroyed until, at the earliest, two years had
passed after his January 1967 “Absolute Release.” (Gerald had been conditionally released from custody at Ft. Grant on Dec. 6,
1964, almost six months after Judge Robert
E. McGhee committed him on June 15,
Insisting that Gila County had “no animosity toward Gerald Gault,” Rasmussen
claimed that no “false information” had
been provided, presumably referring to his
telling the U.S. Army recruiter about Gerald’s 1964 commitment to Ft. Grant.
Judge McGhee also wrote a letter to
Mrs. Lewis. He gave her a copy of Gerald’s
final, January 1967, release and sent her an
example of the letter that juvenile courts receive from Ft. Grant upon the two-year anniversary of a child’s release.
Amelia Lewis contacted the Chief Justice
of the Arizona Supreme Court, Ernest Mc-
Farland, writing him a letter asking for help.
McFarland replied, “Dear Amelia: … noth-
ing is now pending upon which (the court)
can take action.” Lewis filed a motion ask-
ing that the Supreme Court issue an order
to the Gila County court to either destroy
Gerald’s records or correct its records to re-
flect the mandate of the United States Su-
preme Court. Six days later, without a re-
sponse from the State and without explana-
tion, the Arizona Supreme Court denied the
We know of no further formal action to
help Gerald Gault enlist. But, Gerald did
eventually get into the Army. He eventually
retired after 23 years of service.
The harms caused by a juvenile record
cannot be understated, even today. Decades
after the Supreme Court handed down the
Gault decision, children continue to face
barriers to opportunity after coming into
contact with the juvenile court system. As
Justice Fortas noted in the Gault opinion,
juvenile records are far from secret, contrary
to public perception. Just as Gerald was ini-
tially denied access to the military, young
people who are asked about juvenile adjudi-
cations are frequently turned away from em-
ployment, higher education, and housing.
While the legal community commemorates the historic occasion of the 50th anniversary of the decision affirming children’s
due process rights, the ongoing crisis of collateral consequences—and the real story of
what happened to Gerald Gault after his adjudication—cannot be ignored.
Children must have access to justice.
And that means the freedom to pursue their
dreams without fear that a juvenile record
will forever suspend them beyond reach.
As with an adult, careful procedures
should have been required to assure
the voluntariness of a waiver of counsel
and the voluntariness of any confession.
Finally, Gerald was deprived of his right to confront and cross-
examine his accuser, Mrs. Cook.
Amicus counsel argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling
and its mandate did require a correction of Gerald’s juvenile
record to reflect the fact that his commitment to the State Industrial School was obtained in violation of the United States Constitution. They urged the court to make this correction—even if it
was 47 years late.
The State did not object.
Acknowledging that this correction ought to have been
ordered promptly after the Supreme Court’s 1967 mandate and
that the delay in doing so deprived Gerald of any possible benefit
from such an order, the court noted that compliance with a man-
date of the U.S. Supreme Court is neither optional nor time-
sensitive. Regarding whether any purpose would be served taking
action so long after the fact, the court found that “The determi-
nation shown by Paul and Marjorie Gault to vindicate their son
in the courts, still unfulfilled, is reason alone to act now—even a
On August 6, 2014, the 1964 order that adjudicated Gerald
Gault a delinquent child and committed him to the Arizona
The landmark United States Supreme Court
opinion in Application of Paul and Marjorie Gault, 387 U.S.
1 (1967), was issued on May 15, 1967. Judgment in the case
became final on June 9, 1967, when the mandate, witnessed by
Chief Justice Earl Warren, remanded the case back to the Arizona
courts directing that “such proceedings be had” in conformity
with the Court’s judgment and in “accord with right and justice
and the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
No mandate was directed to the Gila County juvenile court,
and that court did nothing to carry out the Supreme Court judg-
ment. This kept Gerald out of the Army in 1968.
But eventually, in 2014, the Gila County Juvenile Court
undertook a review of these landmark events. Larry A. Hammond
and Anna C. Ortiz were appointed amicus curiae counsel. Deputy
Gila County Attorney Patricia R. Pfeiffer represented the State.
Counsel were asked to address whether the ruling in Application
of Paul and Marjorie Gault required that the 1964 orders issued
in Gerald’s delinquency case, the orders reviewed by the U.S.
Supreme Court, be vacated.
The Supreme Court ruled in Gault that the summary, informal
procedures of the Gila County juvenile court, the same type of
procedures that were then routinely employed in many parts of the
country, deprived 15-year-old Gerald of constitutional rights—
rights enjoyed by an adult facing a similar penalty in a criminal
proceeding. Gerald was entitled to, but did not receive, notice of
the charges against him and adequate time to prepare a defense.
The Rest of the Gault Story
In Re Gault and Collateral Consequences
1. State v. Guerrero, 120 P.2d 798, 800