American Judges Association


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Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 44:1/2. Copyright © 2007-2008 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission.


The American Judges Association’s White Paper that forms the centerpiece of this issue begins with the recognition that even first graders have an understanding of procedural fairness. Developmental research has indeed established that young children are able to evaluate the fairness of activities and that they have a more positive perception of activities they deem to be more fair. Until recently, however, there has been little concern in the U.S. regarding children’s experiences of legal processes and procedures. In fact, children were not generally expected or encouraged to directly participate in most legal processes, even those where they were a main party to the proceedings, such as cases involving abuse/neglect and foster care. In the last several years in the U.S., there have been arguments made to increase children’s participation in legal processes that affect them and to increase children’s knowledge of legal processes. These arguments for increased participation are generally couched in the language of procedural justice—children desire and deserve a voice in legal proceedings that affect them. For example, a recent publication for and by foster youth, provided by the nonpartisan Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, is titled My Voice, My Life, My Future. Similarly, efforts at increasing children’s knowledge of legal processes are attempts to empower them in their dealings with the legal system by increasing their understanding of the players and the process.

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