Law and Inequality
Waiver legislation in Minnesota, as in most other States, typically requires juvenile court judges to make individualized determinations as to a juvenile's amenability to treatment and danger to society as the basis for deciding whether to transfer the juvenile to adult court for disposition. Disposition in adult court allows for a more severe sanction than that permitted under the maximum sentence that can be dispensed in juvenile court. The difficulty and disparity in applying this waiver law lies in the discretion given to juvenile justice judges and the diverse criteria applied in judicial decisionmaking, both in the juvenile court and appellate courts reviewing waiver decisions. Typically, waiver criteria swing between the characteristics of the offender and the characteristics of the offense. Waiver decisions can be particularly difficult and controversial when a juvenile without a prior record commits an isolated murder. Waiver criteria and their application in various types of cases should be specified in the law to eliminate disparity in waiver decisions. 298 footnotes.
Barry C. Feld, Bad Law Makes Hard Cases: Reflections on Teen-Aged Axe-Murderers, Judicial Activism, and Legislative Default, 8 Law & Ineq. 1 (1989), available at http://scholarship.law.umn.edu/faculty_articles/287.