Jan 6, 2011

generic case ideas for the juvenile justice resolution

By Guest-Blogger Bri Castellini

In my first post, the first commenter (identified only as Anonymous) asked for a generic list of Aff/Neg points that you'll likely run into.

(On an unrelated note, is it just me, or do “anonymous” comments make the internet feel like a Mission Impossible movie? Probably just me. But when the most exciting part of your life is writing blogs about debate, you take what you can get by way of adventure. So... “Anonymous”... I ACCEPT YOUR CHALLENGE!)

Values/Criteria on the AFF Side:

Justice will be the biggest value, by far, on both sides. On the AFF, it will be argued as succinctly as this: “Do the crime, do the time= Justice served”. However, justice is defined by Princeton University as “the quality of being just or fair”. All Neg would have to do in this case would be to say that their case upholds fairness better, or even more easily, that the Aff doesn't uphold fairness. The generic “grey area” Neg argument will be sufficient here (“Nothing is as black and white as the Aff upholds. We have to be open to treating individual violent juvenile felony cases individually.”) But be careful here, guys. Make sure your Neg case backs this statement up, otherwise the Aff can use it against you.

I foresee an awful lot of utilitarian criteria with this topic. ie: “It's of the greatest importance in a society to protect its citizens, and punishing violent felons, regardless of age, equally will further ensure said citizens' safety”. It's a legitimate point, but it's easily blocked. Just throw individualism at them (“we can't punish every case of violent juvenile felonies the same for the “good of all citizens”, because it will inevitably hurt individual juveniles who, with the rehabilitation of juvenile convictions, might have given up their life of crime” or something), or individual autonomy more specifically. Judges will buy this because we were all brought up in this highly individualized American culture, so we're more biased towards autonomy arguments. Most of us, that is.

(Interestingly enough, the sadly uncontested case on Debate.org for this topic on the AFF side used Justice and Utilitarianism as its V/C.)

Generic Arguments on the AFF Side

#1: The punishment should fit the crime, not the person.

#2: Juveniles that commit violent felonies are more likely to continue their violent streak as adults. (They'll cite a lot of child sociopath quotations, saying that the child is already disturbed to a point past rehabilitation and if we don't treat them as adults now, we'll have to do it later, after they've hurt/killed someone else, and we can't take that chance)

#3: Criminal Justice System (as defined by USCourts.gov): “The network of courts and tribunals which deal with criminal law and its enforcement.” Notice it never says “jails”. This, I expect, will be a HUGE point of contention. The AFF can say that while juveniles will be tried in court as adults, that doesn't mean they'll be housed in the same prisons as adults, or punished as adults. Many Negs will say that juveniles will be denied the extensive rehabilitation offered in juvenile courts, but Aff can argue with this definition that that's not necessarily true. They'll just be punished harsher, but because of their age, not as harshly as adults. Be careful of your wording if you choose to argue this. It has to be air tight, otherwise Neg can simply point out contradictions in the way you set it up.

Values/Criteria on the NEG Side

Justice, again, will be big, but it will be argued with an individualism twist. Neg will argue that a criminal justice system is not fair, or “just”, if it makes a blanket statement for the way a demographic of cases will be tried. The fact is, one juvenile may be able to live a normal, constructive, lawful life if tried as a juvenile and put into rehabilitation, while another juvenile may not. You have to treat every case individually. Recognize that Neg has a lot more leeway when it comes to most resolutions, and this resolution is no different. They can argue that some juvenile cases should be treated as adult cases, but not all.

To be honest, criteria are pretty wide open for Neg cases (See the value/criterion post from Jim). The one I think will be most often used, though, is probably something about moral responsibility. Neg will talk about how minors aren't as morally responsible as adults, and they'll cite voting, the military consuming alcohol, and maybe even driving as examples. If you can't buy a beer or die for your country, how can we consider you morally culpable (in all situations)? Again, Neg only has to prove that some violent juvenile felony cases shouldn't be treated as adults. Lucky Neg.

Generic Arguments on the NEG Side

#1: Minors aren't morally culpable, at least not in every or the majority of cases.

#2: We don't let kids vote/drink for a reason. Why should we let them go to jail with adult criminals?

Note: The only way the whole “THEY'LL GO TO JAIL WITH ADULTS!” argument will fly is if the Aff doesn't use the definition of “criminal justice system” I cited above AND they don't specifically discuss in their case the possibility of juveniles treated as adults in the system will go to separate facilities.

#3: Plan text offering the potential for an entirely separate court system to deal with violent juvenile offenders that is detached from both regular juvenile and adult courts. Again, this is dangerous waters, because once you support a plan on the Neg side, most “burden of proof” arguments go out the window, because now both sides of the debate have something to prove. This will lead to a particularly confusing debate where each debater will spend most of their speech either attacking their opponent's plan OR supporting their own, ignoring everything else, especially the moral and philosophical implications of the topic. Remember, this is not CX (Policy Debate). Just keep that in mind.

To conclude, these are the things I think will come up MOST OFTEN in your debates. In no way do I think these will be the ONLY cases you'll come across, but when looking for block evidence, I'd focus on these areas. If you can write cases that either avoid all of these arguments OR make them airtight, then you'll be golden. Good luck!

Bri Castellini debated in both Public Forum and Lincoln Douglas during high school, and is now a college IPDA debater. Find her blog at Bri's Own World, and follow her on Twitter.


Anonymous said...

Wow great post! Can you think of a possible counterargument for the Neg's drinking/voting argument?

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso said...

Wow. I loved the definition you provided. Thank you!

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, well, you could be consistent and argue that juveniles are mature enough to vote. Or you could argue that moral culpability comes at a much younger age than alcohol tolerance and the cognitive skills required to vote for complex political decisions (especially in states such as Washington that have initiatives on the ballot that can be quite confusing).

Lyssa said...


I do believe that alcohol stunts growth and brain devolpment, those making it a harmful substance to juveniles for purely health reasons. There's no parallel to be drawn, in some respects.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posts! Do you have any responses to WHY a juvenile's lack of mental development relieves them of culpability? For instance, WHY should culpability depend on knowing the difference between right and wrong? I know it sounds obvious on the surface, but I was wondering if there were one or two straightforward answers.

Bri said...

@Anonymous, If you don't know the difference between right and wrong and don't have the mental development to weigh options and punishments properly, then how can you be held [completely] accountable for your actions? You could liken it to mentally handicapped people and why we don't give them the death penalty... because they honestly don't comprehend things the same as responsible adults.

Anonymous said...

@Second Anonymous: I think the reason that we do make the distinction between juveniles and adults in the context of criminal justice is because, morally, it's fundamentally wrong to hold someone to a moral standard they can't comprehend. Intent, in this case, is very important. If a six-year-old child picks up a handgun, pulls the trigger, and kills someone, not understanding what would happen when they did so or the implications of it, we don't punish them.

There's a fundamental difference between someone who simply doesn't understand a moral procedure that they violate and someone who does. Someone who does has made a conscious decision that whatever they've killed for is more important than the social institution barring murder. This person that does understand is one who would most certainly make that decision again, but our hypothetical six-year-old would probably never kill another person again after that incident.

PA Debater said...


1. This is a great site, I remember stumbling upon it as a freshman. It literally saved me from quitting the confusing world of LD :)

2. Here is a question regarding the culpability of juveniles:

After the past few tournaments, I've realized that almost every Neg claims that juveniles are immature, and thus "ought not" be tried as adults. The problem I have with this arg is that I haven't actually seen anyone make the link between culpability and brain function. If I'm not mistaken, shouldn't they make the link with theories of punishment?

Like, why should there be a whole separate system for juveniles JUST because they're "frontal cortex is underdeveloped"? The mentally insane aren't given this privilege.

Jim Anderson said...

PA Debater, I've been asking the same question myself. It seems that the culpability argument really boils down to notions of "cruel and unusual punishment." If the Aff excludes punishment from the discussion, it's a non-starter.

Anonymous said...

On the negative side, if making the observation that neg only has to prove that there are instances in which juveniles ought to be tried as juveniles,doesn't the arguement that because juveniles brains are undeveloped so they shouldn't be tried as adults fall? My thinking behind this is if you argue that there are instances in which juveniles are competent enought to be held accountable for their actions then you can no longer argue that juveniles in general are not aware of the effects of their actions.

K said...

How could you think of a counter-argument to a whole different system that's not part of the juvenile justice system or the adult criminal justice system?

olathe kansas personal injury lawyer said...

This seems like a change that is long overdue, but I wonder if even harsher sentences will get through to those people who habitually drive under the influence. thanks for this great sharing.