JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – The Missouri House of Representatives approved a “Children’s Bill of Courtroom Rights” by 100-48 vote. It prohibits lawyers from raising their voices to children, and requires that attorneys’ questions and the oath to tell the truth be phrased so that children understand them, among other things.
The bill, which goes now to the state Senate, also requires courts to consider children’s nap, school and medication schedules; allow child witnesses to have comfort items such as teddy bears or dolls with them, and a family member or support person in court during testimony; and allows judges to make child witnesses more comfortable.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bob Dixon, said it will make the courtroom a fair place so children can tell their story.
Opponents, many of them attorneys, said that judges with common sense were already making adjustments for children; they said they feared that the bill could cover criminal defendants who qualified as adults.