Prosecutors Desk 7-10-16

A Supreme Court opinion was issued last week that is very interesting in an odd way. The opinion is State v. K.H.-H. It is a juvenile case.

The issue that the Supreme Court decided was whether or not a juvenile had a constitutional right to refuse to apologize to his victim as the judge had ordered him to do.

The facts are very simple. The juvenile was accused of a sexual assault. The case was tried before the judge (as are all juvenile cases). After hearing all the evidence, the judge made a decision that the young man had, in fact, sexually assaulted the victim and found him guilty. As part of the sentence, the judge ordered him to write a sincere letter of apology to the victim.

The juvenile appealed the part of the sentence that required him to write the letter of apology. He put forth the argument that this portion of the sentence violated his First Amendment Freedom of Speech rights, which include the right to be free of the government compelling him to say something he did not want to say. This is the doctrine of compelled speech. There is a United States Supreme Court case directly on this point, but the issue had not been previously addressed in Washington.

The case wound it way to the Washington Supreme Court in about 4 years, which is about the normal length of time it takes for a case to get from the trial court to the Supremes. The process is very slow and full of delay.

So, after hundreds of man and woman hours, stacks and stacks of paperwork, tens of thousands of dollars, (most certainly from the public treasury) and the attention of many people, the Supreme Court of Washington finally decided that a juvenile does not have a Constitutional right to refuse to write letter of apology. Now we know. The Constitution will not protect a young man from being forced to do the right thing.

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