Extreme Judicial Makeover: Utah Judge Orders Mother To Cut Off 13-Year-Old Girl’s Ponytail Or Accept Longer Detention

I have previously and repeatedly written against the use of shaming and novel sentencing by judges around the country (here and here and here). Judges often thrill the public by imposing their own forms of justices — departing from conventional criminal sentences to force people to clean courtroom with toothbrushes, wear demeaning placards, or carry out publicly humiliating tasks. Now, Utah District Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen has joined this circus of judicial Caesars after giving a mother the choice to cut off his daughter’s ponytail in front of him or accept a longer sentence. The mother, Valerie Bruno, relented and cut off Kaytlen Lopan, 13,in the courtroom.


The minor was found to have cut the hair of a toddler in a restaurant. Johansen gave Valerie Bruno a pair of scissors in the courtroom and a choice: either cut off her daughter Kaytlen’s hair or have the teen spend an extra 150 hours in detention. The judge then watched the reluctant mother grab her daughter and instructed “take it off clear up to the rubber band.”

The mother of the 3-year-old victim loved the decision, insisting that her daughter’s hair had never been cut and was once down to her back but was cut short by the teen. The teen had spoken to the girl with an 11-year-old friend at a McDonald’s and went to buy scissors to do the act.

The mother rejects that she relented but said that she felt intimated by the judge. Bruno has now filed a complaint against the judge.

None of this excuses the act of the teen, who appears to have had other disciplinary problems. However, I do not see how the judge acting like a thoughtless 13-year-old child teaches this girl a moral lesson.

Source: Deseret News

49 thoughts on “Extreme Judicial Makeover: Utah Judge Orders Mother To Cut Off 13-Year-Old Girl’s Ponytail Or Accept Longer Detention

  1. He only gave the mother an option.It was not a sentence.So that is where I see it is different.She had the choice to have her daughter take the punishment handed down to her outright.It was her choice to take the deal.Kids are different nowadays.I know my parents said that of my generation but it is true.Kids kill all the time now.It might very well be their environment ,upbringing or a host of other things.I just know that it did not kill me when I got the belt/paddle from my dad or the principle but it DID make me think twice about doing it again.Now kids buck up and taunt teachers and principles telling them to f off…what are you going to do about it.Just call my parents” Then when the parents are called the suddenly turn two years old .”Mommy,they were mean to me(sniffle/sob).I just don’t understaaaaand.”Then they get suspended and get a bunch of zanax out of their parents stuff and brag to their friends how bad they are and how buzzed they are.Then when the other kids (if they went to school that day)get home they sit around and play their video games and listen to their music,talk on the phone and play on the computer.The parents don’t take away privileges because the wussy parents think they have been punished enough by missing school.I know this first hand from my daughters friends.There are far more serious issues with kids than the offer for a lighter sentence for a haircut.I have a feeling without intervention she will be begging for this later in life.See if she is offered that choice at 18 when she commits another crime!Oh,And most parents make a big deal out of a child “first haircut”.Could you imagine???I mean I still have my twenty-one year olds first haircut locks!

  2. I see an escalation in this young lady, from threats to acts. We as parents tend to treat our kids more as friends than children. Treating them more as adults without giving them the time and guidance needed. Cellphones and computers provide them with unlimited access to things and information unheard of just two generations ago. I may be from the old school of thought but i can’t imagine what a 13 yr old needs with a cellphone or computers beyond school work. Maybe having the 13 yr old spending 150hrs of service at the 3yr olds mothers house might have been more appropriate (I know it worked for me).

  3. Finally we have a judge that believes in the “eye for an eye” I believe he handled this situation correctly…. This girl has issues right along with her mother. Kids don’t learn from their mistakes by community service or spending time in Juvenile Justice system… They learn when the same thing happens to them… Well done Judge!!!!!! This mother was given an option to cut her daughters hair. She didn’t have to do it… That was her choice. Maybe next time the 13 year-old trouble maker will think twice before going out and causing problems with other kids. EYE FOR AN EYE!!! Finally, we are seeing justice. BTW. We can all cut down costs we the justice system did this in every case.

  4. I am the Aunt of the 3 year old girl whose hair was cut. For the record, the child was in the McDonalds playland supervised by her grandfather who was sitting in the dining area of the playland. Was he following her through all the tunnels and going to the very top where the incident occurred? No, he wasn’t. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I saw parents or grandparents doing that. Also, the mother DID NOT ask the judge for the punishment of cutting the hair, were we happy when that was what he offered, absolutely. If you listen to the court audio, you hear Bruno agree, and when she took the initial cut, she took 1 inch of her hair. When the judge asked if she was satisfied, of course she was going to say “no”. She didn’t follow what the judge asked of her, and still didn’t the 2nd time she cut at her hair. Listening to all the charges of harassment on top of the assault while sitting in court I was astounded. We were a little shocked to learn that Bruno contacted the news. Now the whole world knows what her daughter has been up to, judging her- what the judge did was minimal compared to what her mother is doing by dragging this story into the public eye. 95% of the people who read this story side with the judge and the victims, is it more shameful for her to have her hair cut, or all her dirty laundry aired for the whole world to judge. No one feels sorry for a bully.

  5. Teenager? Young adult? crying for mom having been arrested for shoplifting.

    (somewhat sad and difficult to watch video, not a great day for anyone. Also a few cusswords.)

  6. Call her what she is, a “BULLY” Stop all the poor minor crap. Think about the 3 year olds rights. This was assault, plain and simple.
    I get so tired of this phsycobabble stuff. I bet she will be ashamed of what she did or at least not likely to repeat the offense or worse.
    Hooray for the judge, we need more like him.

  7. I think the Professor and commenters have all missed something that to me is one of the most disturbing elements of what this judge did: coercing the parent into acting as the instrument of the court’s punishment. This is wrong at many levels. One, it humiliated the parent in front of the child. This undermines respect for the parent and will reduce her authority in the child’s eyes in the future.

    Second, a parent is supposed to be a child’s protector against the world, or at least a comforter when society must inflict a just punishment. We expect parents to weep if their child is sentenced to jail. We don’t expect them to snap on the handcuffs and escort their offspring to prison. It’s a betrayal of the natural loyalties of family bonds. I suspect this girl won’t forget that the hand moved against her in court was her mother’s.

    Nor should we underestimate how cruel this was to the mother.
    Certainly the punishment of hair-cutting doesn’t approach the evil of the Nazi death camps. But the story put me in mind of Sophie’s Choice, the William Styron novel where the title character is given an impossible dilemma by a sadistic German officer: you can save one of your two children from execution, but you have to choose which one. And by the act of choosing, she is forced to become a collaborator in the murder of her other child – and to assume a burden of guilt that never leaves her. This judge could not have cut the 13-year-old’s hair himself without risking an assault charge, or at least a judicial misconduct complaint. But he found a way to make the mother do it: either you assault your child, or I will make her suffer worse.

    This judge probably thinks he did something Solomonic. Well, the punishment may have been appropriate – hair for hair, so to speak. But in seizing on the mother to carry it out – well, that was demonic.

  8. Once I read a passage written by a very wise judge. He said: “The Solomonic solution is one that should be threatened but never carried out.”

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