Juvenile Incarceration: Morales v. Turman
Morales v. Turman, 326 F. Supp. 677 (E.D. Tex. 1971);
364 F. Supp. 166 (E.D. Tex. 1973); 383 F. Supp. 53 (E.D. Tex. 1974);
430 US 322 (1977); 562 F. 2d 993 (5th Cir. 1977);
569 F. Supp. 332 (E.D. Tex. 1983).
At age 15, Alicia Morales was forced to work and turn her wages over to her father. When she protested, her father committed her to the Texas Youth Council for disobedience. The commitment was agreed to by her parents, but did not involve any notice of charges, court appearances, or legal representation. Alicia Morales became the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed in 1971 against Dr. James Turman, Executive Director of TYC (Morales v. Turman, Civil Action No. 1948). The case resulted in sweeping reforms to the commitment of juveniles, both in Texas and nationally.
In March 1971, Judge Justice granted a request by attorneys for Morales and other inmates at TYC establishing the clients’ right to private conferences with their attorneys without supervision by TYC employees.
In July 1971, Judge Justice sent questions to all 2,500 TYC inmates asking whether the inmates had had a court hearing or attorney assistance before commitment. 2,294 inmates responded; over one-third had a hearing, but had not been represented by counsel while 280 inmates had neither a hearing nor attorney representation. Around 50 inmates also included narratives about abuses by TYC staff. The plaintiffs’ attorneys, with the assistance of University of Texas and Southern Methodist University law students, interviewed all TYC inmates in early 1972.
In December 1972, the State admitted to denial of procedural due process and consented to a declaratory judgment, detailing the rights of juveniles in Texas. Included in these rights were the right to an attorney and a provision prohibiting waiver of this right by a child or his parents. Judge Justice refrained from enforcing this judgment for 180 days, giving the Texas Legislature sufficient time to reconsider a defeated 1971 bill incorporating due process rights. The bill was enacted as Title 3 of the Texas Family Code.