Committees, Programs & Sections


ABA Resolutions on Juvenile Defense

The ABA passed two juvenile defense-related resolutions at its Feb. 5-11 meeting.

The first Resolution calls for training for juvenile defense attorneys, resources for juvenile appeals, the provision of timely juvenile appeals and the collection of data on juvenile appeals to remedy institutional barriers to juvenile appellate practice. You can read the Resolution and accompanying report here. The Report cites to statutes, case law, law review articles, and the National Juvenile Defense Standards in explaining the barriers that have prevented effective juvenile appellate advocacy.

This second Resolution tackles the provision of trauma-informed care for youth. It urges “lawyers, law schools and bar associations to adopt trauma-informed, evidence-based approaches and practices on behalf of justice system-involved children and youth who have been exposed to violence, including victims of child abuse and neglect or other crimes and those subject to delinquency or status offense proceedings.” The link to the finalized resolution is broken, but the proposed resolution and accompanying report are available here.

Don't Miss Richard Ross at Emory

Richard Ross, the author of the stunning book Juvenile Injustice, is speaking at Emory on Monday, Feb. 17, from 5-8 p.m.

Juvenile Injustice presents a series of heartbreaking photographs documenting the incarceration of children in America and is a powerful indictment of the juvenile justice system.

I hope you will attend, and encourage everyone you know who cares about child welfare to attend as well.

GACC is a sponsor of this free event. More information and a registration link are by clicking here.

Lawsuit Filed Challenging "Assembly Line Justice" in Cordele

The Southern Center for Human Rights has filed a new lawsuit that challenges the denial of counsel for poor people accused of crimes in the Cordele Judicial Circuit, N.P. v. Georgia. This lawsuit seeks an end to this “meet ‘em and plead ‘em” system of representation, and to ensure that children and adults facing charges in the Cordele Circuit have the benefit of an engaged attorney who will advocate for their best interests. To read the complaint, please click here.
The Cordele Public Defender Office is severely understaffed and underfunded and its lawyers are required to handle an excessive number of cases. Children often appear in a juvenile court without counsel because all of the public defenders are attending proceedings in one of the Superior Courts in the Circuit. For example, a public defender was at only one of three hearings for a fifteen year-old girl charged with delinquent acts and was not present for the hearing in which the child was adjudicated delinquent.

Until mid-2009, the Cordele Circuit Public Defender received both state and county funding for assistant public defenders. However, the Circuit’s county governments stopped funding two attorney positions in 2008 and 2009, leaving the office with only three full-time attorneys to handle cases in four superior courts and four juvenile courts. By comparison, the District Attorney’s office has seven attorneys, with one dedicated to the circuit’s juvenile courts. Other counties in Georgia provide funding for their public defender offices.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) and Arnold & Porter LLC. Lawyers from Arnold & Porter represented Clarence Earl Gideon in the 1963 landmark case that established the right to counsel for people who cannot afford a lawyer, Gideon v. Wainwright. Lawyers at SCHR have long been involved in efforts to make the right to counsel a reality in Georgia.

This is the second time SCHR has sued the Cordele Circuit about indigent defense issues in the last decade. Men and women accused of crimes who could not afford lawyers filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2003 challenging the inadequate representation provided by two part-time lawyers who represented those unable to afford lawyers pursuant to flat-fee contracts with the counties. At that time, a number of poor people accused of crimes were never assigned a lawyer; others languished in jail for months without any contact with one of the contract lawyers. 

The named Defendants in the lawsuit are Governor Nathan Deal, the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council (GPDSC), the County Commissioners of Ben Hill, Crisp, Dooly, and Wilcox counties, Cordele Circuit Juvenile Court Judge, Cordele Circuit Superior Court Judges and District Attorneys, and others.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Southern Center for Human Rights at 404-688-1202.

Calif. Governor Signs Bill Giving Youth Sentenced to Die in Prison a Second Chance

On Oct. 1, 2012, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 9, the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act, which allows youth sentenced to Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP) to petition the courts to review their sentence after they serve 15 years in prison. On review judges can lower their sentence to 25 years to life if they demonstrate remorse and are taking steps towards rehabilitation. The law will take effect January 1, 2013.

Congratulations to all the advocates who were involved in this effort! This is a great victory in the effort to challenge JLWOP practices across the country!

National Juvenile Defender Center
1350 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 304
Washington, DC 20036

New Issue Brief on Victimization and Child Trauma (Implications for Legal Advocates)

The Safe Start Center, ABA Center on Children and the Law, and the Child and Family Policy Associates recently released a new resource, Victimization and Trauma Experienced by Children and Youth: Implications for Legal Advocates. In this resource, you’ll find:

·         Information about the prevalence and impact of victimization and exposure to violence

·         Practice tips for juvenile defenders, children’s attorneys and GALs, judges, and CASAs

·         Explanations of traumatic stress symptoms and trauma-related assessments and treatments

·         Descriptions of promising local and state initiatives to address trauma

·         Guidance on policy reforms and other considerations for trauma-informed advocacy

Please share this link with colleagues and look for our next resource on this topic, coming this fall, Identifying Polyvictimization and Trauma among Court-Involved Children and Youth: A Checklist and Resource Guide for Attorneys and Other Court Appointed Advocates. 

Lisa Pilnik, JD, MS
Director and Co-Founder
Child & Family Policy Associates, LLC
(301) 605-0560

Imprisoned teens found more likely to re-offend
By Walter Jones
September 11, 2012 1:52 AM EDT
Copyright 2012 The Florida Times-Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

ATLANTA - A new report shows that children and teenagers locked up for breaking the law have become 6 percent more likely to commit another crime than they were in 2003. The figures come from a study conducted by the Pew Center on the States at the request of a commission appointed to propose an overhaul to the juvenile-justice system in Georgia. The commission is investigating ways that could make better use of the funds the state spends on public safety.

The same commission made recommendations last year that the General Assembly enacted that created special courts in every county for addicts and also lowered the sentences for crimes like forgery to reduce the number of prisoners and the expense of guarding them.

Locking up juveniles costs significantly more than housing adult prisoners. The state spends $245 per day on each juvenile detainee, an expense that some advocates say could be better spent on rehabilitation by keeping low-risk offenders in their homes.

“It’s not an easy issue, but I think what we do know now is that there are some programs, some supervision strategies, that have been effective in reducing the likelihood that these youths will re-offend,” said Jason Newman, the Pew Center’s state manager.
The center found that the rate in which the average juvenile in the system committed another crime within three years after release hasn’t changed much since 2003 except for those sent to youth detention centers, which are usually the most violent and at the greatest risk of committing another crime anyway. Only one out of eight juvenile offenders spends his sentence in detention.

The Department of Juvenile Justice issued a statement late Monday saying it had noticed the increase and had been trying to reverse it by partnering with churches, increasing mental treatments after release and by minimizing the number of low-risk juveniles locked up so it can focus on those with the greatest need for attention.

“No one can say with exact certainty what has increased the number of young recidivists in Georgia since 2003,” the statement said. “What is known is that youth who enter deeper levels of Georgia’s juvenile justice system often have higher risk levels and increased likelihood of recidivating.”

It also noted that the increased rate is a factor of the reduced population behind bars since those left are a higher concentration of serious offenders. Plus, there has been a rise in the number of hard-core cases with drug addictions., (404) 589-8424

Distributed with the permission of the author.