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Specialized juvenile courts: Do they make a difference in judicial decision making?
Data were obtained from juvenile court records in Nebraska covering the 1988-1993 period. Logistic regression analysis was employed to examine differences in the behavior of the two court types while controlling for extralegal and legal characteristics of juvenile defendants. Statistically significant differences were observed in adjudication decisions but not in final dispositions of the two court types; mixed jurisdiction courts more likely to adjudicate delinquent than juvenile courts. Differences in outcomes at the adjudication stage suggested that offenders whose cases appeared in courts of mixed jurisdiction may be victims of the court structure, compared to offenders whose cases were heard in specialized juvenile courts. With respect to adjudication, county courts were more harsh than juvenile courts. Given that juvenile courts are less likely than county courts to find allegations substantiated, the authors indicate that parens patriae may be served by the mix of decisions found in juvenile courts in that the state tends to become the "father" of fewer juveniles. By dismissing cases, courts give parents or guardians of accused youth the responsibility of providing rehabilitative services to juveniles. Because county courts are more likely to bring accused youth under court jurisdiction, these courts offer the hand of the state to a wider range of offenders with more varied dispositions and thus make decisions that are closer than those of juvenile courts to fulfilling the philosophy of parens patriae. Several directions for further research on judicial decisionmaking are suggested. 48 references, 4 endnotes, and 1 table source
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