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UNITED STATES v. BLAND

July 28, 1971

UNITED STATES
v.
Jerome T. BLAND


Aubrey E. Robinson, Jr., District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON, JR.

AUBREY E. ROBINSON, Jr., District Judge.

 The defendant, Jerome T. Bland, is charged with armed robbery of a post office and related offenses, alleged to have occurred on February 8, 1971, at a time when he was sixteen years old. Defense counsel has moved to dismiss the indictment in this case for lack of jurisdiction over this sixteen-year-old defendant contending that the statutory basis for charging this defendant as an adult, D.C. Code § 16-2301(3)(A) (Supp. IV, 1971), fails to afford the defendant due process of law as required by the Constitution. The Government responds that the decision to prosecute this defendant is within the unreviewable discretion of the prosecutor.

 The specific statute setting up the Family Division of the new Superior Court provides:

 
§ 16-2301. DEFINITIONS
 
As used in this subchapter --
 
* * *
 
(3) The term "child" means an individual who is under 18 years of age, except that the term "child" does not include an individual who is sixteen years of age or older and --
 
(A) charged by the United States attorney with (i) murder, forcible rape, burglary in the first degree, robbery while armed, or assault with intent to commit any such offense, or (ii) an offense listed in clause (i) and any other offense properly joinable with such an offense.

 It is effective as of February 1, 1971, as part of the District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970, Pub. L. No. 91-358, 84 Stat. 473.

 Had this sixteen-year-old been arrested for this offense prior to February 1, 1971, he would have received the full panoply of protections of the District of Columbia Juvenile Court system, and that system could have waived jurisdiction resulting in his trial as an adult only after a hearing with effective assistance of counsel and a statement of reasons specific enough to permit this Court to review the decision to waive jurisdiction. See Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 86 S. Ct. 1045, 16 L. Ed. 2d 84 (1966).

 This new statute now permits the United States Attorney to make the decision as to whether or not certain sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds will be tried as adults in criminal court or treated as children in the Family Division of the new Superior Court, unfettered by the requirements of a "full investigation," a waiver hearing and statement of reasons, consistent with due process.

 By its ruling today, this Court is not trespassing on the prosecutorial discretion of the United States Attorney as to whether or how Jerome T. Bland should be charged nor is it expressing any opinion as to the merits of whether Jerome T. Bland should be tried as an adult or treated as a child by the Family Division. This Court is ruling on the validity of an Act of Congress, which Act purports to lower the jurisdictional age limit for juvenile treatment of those arrested for certain serious crimes but in actuality streamlines the juvenile system at the expense of the individual's right to due process safeguards by placing unlimited discretion in the hands of the United States Attorney on a matter of "critical importance." Kent, supra at 556, 86 S. Ct. 1045.

 Congress, faced with statistics *fn1" indicating that the existing Juvenile Court system was not working well, took on the task of reorganizing that system. Two of the problems of the then existing system that Congress intended to remedy with the provision challenged here were that the Juvenile Court was overburdened with too many juveniles in difficulty with the law and there were too many sophisticated sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who were still being treated as juveniles, thereby wasting the efforts of the Juvenile Court because they ...


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