Update: US judge’s mind boggled that IL hasn’t amended law to protect youth

Legislators tried unsuccessfully to change an Illinois policy that allows minors to be held in jail for lengthy periods without a hearing. Now the issue is going before a federal judge.

(This article has been supplemented by new article on this page: “Federal judge pushes Cook County to give arrested youth prompt hearings“)

A federal judge is to consider on Tuesday whether Cook County illegally holds juveniles in detention following arrest, after the Illinois legislature found itself stymied last spring over that issue.

The Illinois General Assembly passed by a 73-39 vote last April a bill that would have ensured that juveniles must be given a hearing within 48 hours of their arrest, which would bring the state law in compliance with a 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision that grants that right to all people arrested.

Investigations that expose, influence and inform. Emailed directly to you.

But the bill died a month later in the state Senate. Legislators said in interviews in recent days that the bill encountered opposition from legislators over the potential cost of having trained juvenile judges available on weekends, and over fear of appearing “soft on crime” in an election year.

Their comments came after a lawsuit was filed last week contending that Cook County is violating juveniles’ constitutional rights, as expressed in the Supreme Court case, by holding juveniles detained on weekends or holidays longer than 48 hours without any judge making sure the arrest was legal. In 2012, the Justice Department told jurisdictions that the deadline applied to minors as well.

But in Cook County, while bond hearings occur for adults on weekends, no such hearings occur for juveniles.

The suit is filed on behalf of four minors who were arrested on Friday nights and held for more than 48 hours. One was ultimately released without ever being charged or seeing a judge. The 17-year-old son of Demont Goudy, the lead plaintiff, was held over Labor Day weekend for 88 hours, said their attorney, Adele Nicholas.

RELATED: Cook County illegally holds juveniles post-arrest before hearing, lawsuit contends

The lawsuit asks U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin, who has been assigned the case and has scheduled the Tuesday hearing, to certify the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of all juveniles detained for lengthy periods in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

“One day in juvenile detention can change the trajectory of a child’s life, and if they don’t need to be there, then they shouldn’t be there,” said Rep. Robyn Gabel, who filed the legislation and who said she still hopes the bill can pass in November.

“If we come to an agreement, we’ll be able to put an amendment on the bill and pass it during the veto [session],” which begins Nov. 15, Gabel said. “If not, we will definitely introduce it again starting in the next session,” which begins Jan. 11.

The legislation seeks to amend Illinois’ Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to require a probable-cause hearing to be held no later than the morning after a teen’s arrest. It would also mandate the release of any minor held longer than 24 hours without a hearing.

“I think that the current state of the law is really troubling,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi, another sponsor of the bill. “The possibility for juveniles to be detained without their parents knowing, without having access to counsel…these are really problematic concerns and there’s a reason we put this issue up on the legislature.

(Injustice Watch fellows Camille Darko, Jeanne Kuang and Emily Hoerner contributed reporting)