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  • Cathing Up: How the Youth Court Act Can Save New York State's Outdated Juvenille Justice System With Regard to Sixteen and Seventeen-Year-Old Offenders

    New York State is one of only two states in the country that classifies sixteen-year-olds as adults in the eyes of the court system, an embarrassing distinction that the Office of Court Administration and the New York State Legislature are eager to change. The Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals has introduced a proposal that would create a special court for sixteen and seventeen-year-old nonviolent offenders—in a move that would eventually raise the age of criminal liability in New York to eighteen years old. The proposed measure, the Youth Court Act, essentially blends the essential Due Process protections of the criminal court system with that of the family court system. The proceedings would seamlessly blend the procedural safeguards evident in the criminal system with the rehabilitative elements of family court; with the ultimate goal being a complete shift to family court. In addition to the Court of Appeals, the State Legislature has been working on enacting a bill that would amend the Criminal Procedure Law, the Executive Law, the Family Court Act, and the Penal Law to raise the age of criminal responsibility for certain acts to eighteen. This bill, drafted by the legislature, would go much further and, for various reasons, is not a feasible option. The first section of this paper will discuss the evolution of the juvenile justice system in New York. The second section will analyze various reasons for decreasing the criminal responsibility of sixteen and seventeen-year-olds. The third section will examine the proposal set forth by the Court of Appeals, a similar bill currently before the State Legislature, the differences between the two, and the roadblocks that both have faced.