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”
““[P]unishment is not inflicted for the purpose of retaliation, but solely for the protection of the public.” Florida v. Shotkin, 149 So.2d 574 (Fla. 3d DCA 1963). Judges who prefer the equivalent of placing a defendant in the stocks in the town square need to take another look at the purpose of sentencing.”
But it can’t be just this.
1. The public has little to fear from this kid, or most kids, and still we sentence them when this statement would indicate a stern talking to might be enough.
2. At some level, mom and judge both agreed this was a lesser punishment than 300 community service hours and still we’d all be okay if this little monster had served her 300 hours.
3. According to this statement there is no reason for her to serve 300 hours, much less 30 hours or 3 hours.
I say this was an apt, if sexist, punishment.
Kids are juvenile immature forms of life. They are not fully myelinated. They probably don’t understand incentives and punishments in the same way you do.
Sometimes kids need a real authority figure to lay the law down. We teach them so much evasiveness which really just comes across as passive aggressive bullshit.
300 hours or a ponytail cut off?
Well, when my dog gnaws on my dashboard, I don’t subject it to 300 hours of community service, I immediately tell it “No” in a deep firm voice (Note: I don’t really have a dog).
Counseling will probably be laughed at same as community service.
What the kid needed was the judge giving her the option to cut her hair short or deal with the community service, probably at a kid’s cancer ward.
This was sexist, because we know if this had been a male child, the commentariat at this blog would have been demanding prison time.
“[P]unishment is not inflicted for the purpose of retaliation, but solely for the protection of the public.” Florida v. Shotkin, 149 So.2d 574 (Fla. 3d DCA 1963). Judges who prefer the equivalent of placing a defendant in the stocks in the town square need to take another look at the purpose of sentencing.
If the 13 year old’s mother would spend less time defending her daughter and more time disciplining her daughter, maybe the daughter wouldn’t be acting out. Having your hair cut is a small consequence – she needed to understand why this was hurtful to the other family.
I also agree that it seems the 3 year old was at mcdonalds a long time AND not very supervised. Maybe they were in the playground area?
I support the judge and think there should have been even more to the punishment to get through to this young lady.
Reminds me of the practice during the 19th century of mobs cutting off the long braids Chinese immigrants had as a form of intimidation or degradation. Probably it would be best for the courts to avoid such punishments and stick to the punishments the law provides for.
I can see both sides of this story. The old “eye for an eye” version of justice and the ‘judge should be above this’ side.
At 13, I would hope that every time she looked in the mirror, she would regret what she did and think twice about picking up another pair of scissors to cut someone’s hair. I would suggest the possibility that this punishment might actually have a better effect than 15 hours of detention. The possibility of detention exacerbating the teen’s disciplinary issues in a negative way seems probable.
The bigger question is: where was the toddler’s mother when all of this was occurring?
I had to deal with an assistant city attorney a few times. Maybe half a dozen. I lost count. She was supposed to show up for circuit court four times, but she only showed up twice. Sometimes pony tail, sometimes not. Brunette. Don’t try it.
After acquiring the scissors, they returned to McDonald’s, where they both took a turn … cutting some of the little girl’s hair off the back of her head,” Price police officer Robb Radley wrote in his report.
At a May 28 hearing, Lopan entered admissions in the assault case, as well as another case stemming from eight months of phone calls she made to another teen in Colorado that included threats of rape and mutilation, according to an audio recording of the hearing provided to the Deseret News by Bruno.
I agree that this judge erred. This girl should’ve been sent straight to jail. No counseling, like that could work, and no community service.
Sharia law or pseudo Sharia law?
It is inevitable that some of the American Taliban will become judges.
“How did the two girls get access to the 3 year old long enough to cut her hair. Long enough to decide to do it, to go shopping for scissors, and then to cut the hair. WHERE WAS THE CHILD’S MOTHER.?”
The money shot question. Having raised two daughters and having three young grandchildren I’m at a loss to explain how this happened in the sense of the 13 year old’s access to the child. A stupid decision, I think made with little serious thought given to the case before the Judge.
“giving a mother the choice to cut off his daughter’s ponytail” & “felt intimated by the judge”?
This judge was into shaming, not punishment. The mom of the 3year old was looking for revenge and maybe something to deal with her own guilt.
How did the two girls get access to the 3 year old long enough to cut her hair. Long enough to decide to do it, to go shopping for scissors, and then to cut the hair. WHERE WAS THE CHILD’S MOTHER.?
Utah. Five Wives vodka the morning of sentencing. A better sentence would be to put the 13 year old to work cleaning up the roadside with a chaingang for one day.
Well I was ready to jump on the band wagon and blah blah blah till I read this:
>>Her daughter and an 11-year-old friend were referred to juvenile court for cutting off the hair of a 3-year-old girl with scissors in March and for harassing another girl in Colorado by telephone.
At a May 28 hearing, Johansen ordered Bruno’s daughter to serve 30 days in detention and to perform 276 hours of community service. But the judge offered to take 150 hours of community service off the sentence if Bruno cut her daughter’s ponytail in his courtroom.<< (via hyper- link)
If this child was not 13, if she were younger or older, I mayt disagree. But when Solomon said split the baby…..well this was the mother that said ok,..
I personally don’t find anything wrong with the judge’s decision, provided that the 13YO’s motives were not good when she cut the hair off of the 3YO. It isn’t as though he had her flogged or anything.
As the parent of 3 kids (2 girls), I cannot imagine having a 3YO with long hair. It snarls and it is really painful for the kids to have combed out! Yikes! As soon as my kids’ hair gets long enough to start tangling, I, myself, get out the scissors. Parents
While I do understand that a 13YO’s brain is not fully developed, any reasonably developed 13YO will understand that it is morally wrong to cut another child’s hair for self-entertainment. This 13YO freely chose to engage in this act. The loss of the ponytail will be a long-term reminder to the girl not to interfere with other people’s bodily integrity.
That being said, on the off-chance that the 13YO had done it so as to save the poor 3YO the pain of having her hair yanked on a daily basis while combing snarls out, the 13YO should have been given a medal, instead.
Not surprised that it is in religious Utah. It reminds me of the colonial days when people were mocked in the public square.
And this is what happens in an overly entitled society. The mother of the 3 yr old felt entitled to revenge, the judge felt entitled to dictatorial authority, just as Americans feel entitled to their pettiness. Disgusting.
An eye for an eye syndrome…..
This judge is a moral pigmy in terms of having any understanding of the complex relationship girls have with their hair. He may very well have done far more damage to her psychologically than to her pony tail. A smart judge would have ordered her to get counseling and some community service in a related area. What the girl did to the child is inexcusable, but does not in any way justify what the judge did.
I remember reading about a municipal judge who had both a sense of humor as well as sense of appropriate justice. When defendants were brought before him for having loud ‘boom box’ car stereos, he held the cases until he had a group of several defendants. On a day when there was no court, the defendants had to assemble in his courtroom and listen to a full day of music of his selection. The judge was an amateur jazz saxophonist and he included several of his own recorded tunes. The miscreants with loud car speakers were compelled to listen to an all day long concert of jazz, classical music, bagpipes, Indian, Asian and Native American music. Sounds about right to me (pun intended).
This is inane. And cruel. And the mother of the three-year-old who “loved” the decision exacting an infantile “eye for an eye” also ought to feel ashamed, once overheated feelings cool.
Sometimes the things that judges do mystify me. This is one of those times.
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