It was a school night and well past Joshua Vega’s bedtime when most of the world learned that Donald Trump had won the 2016 election and would become the 45th president of the United States. The then-third grader said he didn’t get the news until the next morning when he asked his grandmother for permission to use her phone to look up the election results.
Today I was hopeful. I was hopeful because I witnessed several NFL teams defy our current president, DJT, who a famous sports host labeled correctly a “racist and white supremacist,” and who a famous NBA star called “a bum.” DJT had, even before he was elected, ignited a national sense of urgency to resist social injustice in the so-called “mighty USA.”
As with most natural disasters, the attention of the media was initially centered on the havoc wrecked by Hurricane Sandy. We were drawn to its most dramatic images – the dangling crane at the construction site of a luxury high-rise in Midtown Manhattan; the New York City building whose façade collapsed, resembling the open side of a dollhouse; the half-submerged roller coaster, all that remained of an amusement park on the Jersey shore; the river of water running through the narrow streets of Hoboken; and the weeping mother who lost two toddlers amidst the flooding on Staten Island. We watched cable news. We texted REDCROSS to 90999. We donated canned goods and batteries. Yet, consistent with human nature, our interest soon faded.
Tuesday, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the state’s so-called juvenile waiver laws – a series of rulings that effectively allow county persecutors, and not state judges, to determine whether juvenile cases should be moved to adult courts. Currently, minors as young as 16 accused of a violent offense, such as homicide or aggravated assault, can be transferred to adult court under the state’s waiver laws, according to New Jersey’s The Record. More than 20 local and national organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the state’s Public Defender’s Office, have challenged New Jersey’s juvenile waiver laws, with many arguing that the regulations – which give judges limited ability to deny prosecutor requests for moving cases to adult courts – are unconstitutional. As the laws are written today, unless a defense attorney can demonstrate a prosecutor’s request that a juvenile be transferred to an adult court is a “patent abuse of discretion,” the presiding juvenile court judge is bound by law to grant the request, The Record reports. Tuesday’s hearing centers on a 2009 Middlesex County mugging involving several juveniles – a case in which the trial judge challenged the prosecuting attorney’s request to move the case to adult court.
A bill moving through the New Jersey Legislature would force kids caught sending sexually explicit photographs and videos through their cell phone to attend an intense education program rather than face prosecution. The measure, A-1561, passed the Assembly 78-to-0 in March and now moves to the state Senate for final approval. “Sexting,” as the practice is known popularly, has recently been in the news thanks to U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) who was caught sending lewd photos of himself to female constituents. As JJIE.org reported recently, Weiner will likely face fewer consequences than many teens found sexting, who may face child pornography charges. “Teens need to understand the ramifications of their actions, but they shouldn’t necessarily be treated as criminals,” Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), a co-sponsor, told NewJerseyNewsroom.com. The education program would teach participants about the possible legal and social consequences of sexting. Juveniles who successfully complete the education program would not face trial. A second co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland), said the measure would help kids who make a mistake not “pay for it in court.”