Pursuing Gault

18 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2016

See all articles by David S. Tanenhaus

David S. Tanenhaus

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Eric Nystrom

Arizona State University

Date Written: September 30, 2016


In the landmark 1967 case In re Gault, the U.S. Supreme Court incorporated procedural due process protections into the administration of American juvenile courts and paved the way for lawyers to represent and prosecute children in juvenile court. The Court's sweeping opinion drew on empirical research to address broad principles of due process as well as the specifics of the case. In the decades since, American juvenile justice has been transformed. In this essay, we neither lament Gault's "lost promise" nor treat it as a "period piece." Instead, we use digital tools to investigate the use of this frequently cited case over time. We begin by reviewing the role of Abe Fortas, who wrote the majority opinion in this landmark decision. Next, we use digital tools and citation records to trace what happened to the most memorable parts of his decision (i.e., Fortas's Gault) in the subsequent case law, and how those parts compare to other citations of the case. We also use digital tools to search for potentially interesting patterns meriting further investigation. The conclusion notes that what remains of Gault is significant but largely confined to juvenile court. Yet scholars may be able to use citations to the case to discover valuable sites for exploring the legal history of American juvenile justice from 1967 to the present.

Keywords: digital legal history, digital history, juvenile justice, digital humanities

Suggested Citation

Tanenhaus, David S. and Nystrom, Eric, Pursuing Gault (September 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2864652 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2864652

David S. Tanenhaus

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States
702-895-3549 (Phone)
702-895-1782 (Fax)

Eric Nystrom (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

7271 E. Sonoran Arroyo Mall
Mesa, AZ 85212
United States
480-727-1031 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://ericnystrom.org

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