LOWELL, MA (Sept. 25) — The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) applauded today’s Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (SJC) decision in Commonwealth v. Weston W., which struck down part of the City of Lowell’s juvenile curfew ordinance as unconstitutional.
AALDEF staff attorney Cecilia Chen said: “This monumental decision is an important step towards protecting the rights of youth, particular young Cambodian Americans, in Lowell.” She added, “The Cambodian community in Lowell has been deeply affected by tension and mistrust of local law enforcement for decades. We hope this decision encourages Lowell to explore more positive, community-based ways to address youth violence rather than simply criminalizing youth.”
In its decision, the SJC struck down part of Lowell curfew ordinance that allowed persons under 17 to be arrested and charged for violating the curfew, which extends from 11 pm to 5 am. The SJC found that the criminal penalties attached to Lowell’s juvenile curfew ordinance were “an extraordinary and unnecessary response” to a curfew violation. The SJC also held, for the first time, that the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights guarantees a fundamental right to freedom of movement.
In February, AALDEF, along with other youth rights advocates, submitted an amicus brief urging the court to strike down the Lowell curfew ordinance as unconstitutional. AALDEF’s brief highlighted the disproportionate impact of the curfew ordinance on Cambodian and other Southeast Asian youth in Lowell, as well as the unreasonable and severe consequences of the curfew ordinance’s criminal penalties.
AALDEF’s amicus brief can be downloaded at http://aaldef.org/docs/FINALLowellCurfewAmicus.pdf