Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Local Courts to Adopt Rules for Juvenile Shackling Under New Statewide Rule

An amendment to the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio will mandate that local courts adopt rules to regulate the shackling of youth appearing in court proceedings. The Ohio Supreme Court adopted Sup. R. 5.01, which will take effect July 1.

After meeting with concerned parties about this issue last year, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor directed a subset of the Advisory Committee on Children & Families to examine the issue. Along with publishing a proposed rule for public comment, the group researched how other states have addressed the issue and conducted a survey of Ohio juvenile court judges that found a majority of respondents always or frequently restrain juveniles during court proceedings. The shackling of juveniles has gained increasing national attention and has raised concerns about its usage.

Under Sup. R. 5.01, local restraint rules would create a presumption against shackling. However, local courts can restrain children on a case-by-case basis if a judge or magistrate finds on the record it is necessary because the juvenile’s behavior is a significant threat or the juvenile is at risk of fleeing. The judge or magistrate must also find that restraint is necessary because no less restrictive alternatives exist.

Justice Terrence O’Donnell dissented from adopting the rule stating he would limit its application to certain categories of offenses while giving judges continued discretion regarding the use of restraints on juveniles charged with felonies.

In his dissent, Justice O’Donnell noted that, “This rule will not affect the transfer of juvenile offenders into or out of the courtroom but only their appearance while in the courtroom. Several juvenile court judges and magistrates who have direct courtroom access to holding cells and security personnel do not object to the rule as written. Others, who do not have access to those security measures, express concern for public safety, the possibility of escape, and the burden of holding additional hearings to make findings, which will add to an already busy docket, whenever a judge feels a necessity to make a record to overcome the presumption the court imposes in adopting this rule.” 

Justice O’Donnell noted that his position was in line with positions expressed by the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Judicial Conference Juvenile Law and Procedure Committee, and juvenile court judges from several Ohio counties. Accordingly, he stated, “I would adopt Sup.R. 5.01 only for tobacco offenses, traffic offenses, minor misdemeanor offenses, status offenses, and non-violent misdemeanor level delinquencies. I dissent from the court’s decision to adopt the rule to the extent that the rule will apply to felony level offenses and all offenses of violence.”

Justice O’Donnell concluded his dissent with the following observation, “My experience is that juvenile court judges in Ohio are not making decisions based on the shackled appearance of youthful offenders. And since these are not jury proceedings and the public is excluded from court, little prejudice inures to an accused offender. Other issues are the propensity for violence and the possibility or opportunities for escape. I believe that the judges should be able to exercise discretion in each case regarding the matter of shackling, and I reject the notion that this court ought to create a presumption that a juvenile court judge must overcome in every violent offender case if the court decides to shackle an offender for safety or security purposes in the interest of the efficient administration of justice.”

The Ohio Judicial College is working to embed within the training it offers to juvenile court judges, magistrates, and employees research concerning best practices for handling juvenile offenders in court proceedings.

View the text of the new rule.

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