Please Register for the NCBA’s Juvenile Representation CLE, May 12

Have you had questions regarding juvenile law that were left unanswered? Have you wondered what the juvenile court judges deem most effective when appearing in their courtrooms? Are you interested in hearing from youth who are directly impacted by the daily decisions made by practitioners and judges on their behalf? Well, the Juvenile Representation CLE scheduled for Friday, May 12, 2017 at the Cary Bar Center is just for you!!!  The first fifteen (15) Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section Members who register BEFORE May 5, 2017 will receive an additional rebate which will lower the registration fee. Please consider attending – here’s the link!

This CLE will provide attendees with effective strategies for juvenile representation from practitioners in the field, juvenile judges, and youth impacted by contact with the juvenile justice system. Key topics covered will include:

  • Practical suggestions from experienced attorneys handling cases in abuse, neglect, and dependency court
  • Judges’ examples of effective advocacy from their experiences in juvenile court
  • Perspectives from youth who were formerly involved in the juvenile delinquency and child welfare systems
  • A look back at the meaning of In re Gault after 50 years
  • Dealing with stress and trauma from handling difficult juvenile cases

All About Gault: Updates, Talking Points, & Reminders

The countdown to “Gault at 50″ continues (less than 3 weeks to go!) and to keep everyone up-to-date, we’ve got a few reminders, tutorials and talking points to share below:


  • For anyone who would like to give a digital or personal presentation, below is a detailed but concise explanation of Gault (feel free to personalize it if you wish):


“On May 15, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court granted due process rights to children in the landmark case of In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967). The case involved 15-year-old Gerald Gault, who was taken into police custody without notice to his parents, held for four days, and committed to a juvenile facility for a maximum of six years for making a prank phone call to his neighbor. He received no prior notice of the charges and was adjudicated delinquent following an informal hearing with a judge without any witnesses or representation by counsel. His case would spark outrage today but was the norm for juvenile proceedings at the time. When the Supreme Court reversed Gault’s adjudication, it transformed the nature of juvenile court by defining basic requirements of due process that now apply to all delinquency hearings. These rights include:

  • the right to notice of the charges;
  • the right to an attorney;EZ & Gault at Commission on IDS
  • the right to remain silent; and
  • the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.”

(Also if you do choose to create a presentation, be sure to email or Tweet pics or video/audio clips to us to share with the community!)


“The Improper Use of Electronic Monitors in Juvenile Court” by Guest Blogger Mitchell Feld


You meet your new client for the first time for the first detention hearing as the child was detained on a low-level felony or misdemeanor.  The recommendation is for the child to be released on an electronic monitor.  Your client hears that and says that he/she is willing to get out of detention on an “ankle bracelet.”  The short-term victory is your client is happy because he/she got released and you look like the great lawyer who walked into court and got your client released.  However, did you truly do a service to your client and other children in juvenile court?

We have all been in the situation described above and accept the offered release conditions because it satisfies the wishes of your client.  However, how often do we ask if electronic monitoring is appropriate while still arguing for our client’s expressed interest to be released?  Electronic monitoring is a common release condition for adult court and by accepting it as a release condition for children in juvenile court in all situations mares the difference between juvenile and adult court.  What is amazing about the utilization of electronic monitoring in juvenile court is when it is used when it is not necessary and when it is not used when it is necessary.  There are a few situations that truly highlight these two types of scenarios and the rationale behind its appropriateness or lack thereof.

My office has had numerous children who are detained on misdemeanors or low-level felonies, they comply with curfew and rules put in place by the parent/guardian, they attend school daily, and they have a social history that is absent any red flags.  Court counselors frequently ask for a child to be released on electronic monitoring due to the serious nature of a child having a felony charge.  While one can appreciate that a felony is a serious offense, we must inquire about the virtue of an electronic monitor and whether this child is truly a danger to property or persons as is one of the criteria under N.C.G.S 7B-1903(b)(1).  Merely being charged with a felony does not mean a child is a danger to property or persons and making an argument against continued detention or release on electronic monitoring is a necessary argument.  Children that are charged with possession of drugs that rise to a low-level felony, possession of stolen goods merely because the child was given property from a B&E, or assault-based offenses are not necessarily appropriate for a monitor due to the lack of correlation between the charge and the need for 24/7 supervision.  Possession of a drug or property, while serious and concerning, does not mean that the person needs to be supervised at all times without other factors present.  If someone is charged with assault (either physical or sexual), an electronic monitor serves no purpose to prevent a future attack.  All a monitor would do in an assault situation is provide confirmation that a person was present should another attack occur, but would not actually prevent an attack.  While these situations can be concerning to a victim, judge, or prosecutor, we still need to balance the purpose of a monitor with the juvenile court-to-prison pipeline that is created by imposing adult court conditions on children.

While those situations are ones that are self-explanatory for when a monitor is not necessary, there are also situations when a monitor is refused when it can be appropriate for a child to be released.  My favorite situation that arises in court is when a court counselor said that child was denied for electronic monitoring because he/she has an AWOL history.  At that point I want to turn to the court counselor and do my best Biff impression from Back to the Future and say, “Hello, McFly!  Think, McFly, think!”  I have made the argument to judges that if a monitor is only used for children who comply with a curfew and we know where they are at all times, then what is the purpose of the monitor?  If children have a history of going AWOL, not following a curfew, or leaving school without permission, then a monitor can serve a purpose to ensure the child thinks twice before making that negative decision knowing big brother is watching at all times.  No one wants to see a child with an electronic device strapped to his/her ankle at all times, but if it serves as a behavior modification technique, causes the child to think twice about a decision, and stops the prior behaviors that led them to juvenile court, then the use of the device is appropriate.

There is also the situation when court stakeholders believe that because your client committed one breaking and entering, he/she committed all of them.  I have had numerous clients that, to their credit and honesty, will gladly tell you which crimes they committed and which ones they did not.  The monitor has been useful to show a judge and prosecutor that just because there was enough evidence for one case, does not justify bringing charges for another because the child’s monitor did not show his/her presence at the scene of another crime.  As stated above, I do not like to see a child on a monitor but there are times when its presence can be utilized to demonstrate your client’s innocence.

While juvenile court has been around for a number of years, in light of where it has come in the past 50 years since In re Gault, there are still a number of practices that are not juvenile court practices, but rather applied adult court practices.  While it is easy to accept those practices as that may be all we have, we must be diligent to challenge their utilization and appropriateness when they are not right for children.  When you believe you have nothing else to argue, it is easy to go back to N.C.G.S. 7B-1500 and argue that rehabilitation and constitutional rights for children are always at the heart of what juvenile court is about.  Children may be focused on the short-term win, but we need to be thinking about the long-term effects.  The arguments we make today will become best practices in the years to come.

Mitchell Feld is the Director of Children’s Defense at the Council for Children’s Rights representing children in delinquency and mental health commitment matters.  Mr. Feld obtained his undergraduate degree from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania in 2005 and his J.D. degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 2008.  Mr. Feld is a member of the North Carolina Bar and the Western District of North Carolina.  He has served as the Chair and Vice Chair of the Juvenile Law Section of the Mecklenburg County Bar and currently serves on the Mecklenburg County Bar Grievance Committee.  Mr. Feld has lectured at the local, state, and national level on juvenile case law, interviewing children, sex offenses and registration, motions practice, and delinquency advocacy.

“Presumption of Ignorance” by Guest Blogger Tonza Ruffin Buffaloe

Today we are doing a different kind guest blog, turning attention to Tonza Ruffin Buffaloe’s blog, southernmomjd. In one of her latest posts she gives a narrative of a personal experience she had in court. Buffaloe gives an introspective account of this moment in her life as not only a defense attorney, but also as a Black female. She points out the existence of racial disparities among lawyers and other court actors as well as their clients.


Stunned at the depth of unprofessionalism, I sat there and listened as questions about my personal life were raised in the name of addressing any potential conflicts that I had with existing clients.  Looking at the court reporter summoned to this meeting, I felt my emotion leave my body as I geared up to play the game once again.  Unfortunately this game had become all too common for me as I spent the past 18 years trying to strike the balance between being a zealous advocate and stomaching the gross disrespect wielded upon me as a criminal defense attorney.  It seemed, in our system of justice, my decision to defend the voiceless meant I was involuntarily inducted into a club that was shunned and ridiculed on a regular basis.


As I sat there I could not help but wonder what this “witch hunt” was really about.  And, quite frankly, if…

View original post 573 more words

Free CLE: Rowan Regional Juvenile Training


The North Carolina Advocates for Justice’s Juvenile Defense Section and the Office of the Juvenile Defender will be hosting a free CLE in Salisbury, N.C. on April 27 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  The event will take place at Morgan Ridge Railwalk on 421 North Lee Street.  A lunch social will also be held prior to the training starting at 1 p.m.

The training will be titled “Client Representation: Adolescent Brains, Examining Children on the Stand, and the Impact of Raise the Age”.  Speakers will include Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry, Valerie Pearce, regional defender and certified child welfare legal specialist, and Dr. Cindy Cottle, forensic psychologist.

CLE credit hours are currently pending, but are expected to be approved at a later date.  For more information please find the flier here.


North Carolina’s Gault at 50 Page is Now Live

The National Juvenile Defender Center, Administrative Office of the Courts, and the Office of the Juvenile Defender has recently launched a North Carolina Gault at 50 Campaign webpage.  The page includes a brief history of Gault, a description of how N.C. has been a leader in protecting children’s rights, quotes from major advocates for juvenile justice reform from around the state, info for upcoming events and articles highlighting Gault and Raise the Age.  Please take a moment to check out the website here.


We’ve been pounding it into everyone’s memories for the last few weeks, and (unfortunately for everyone who already gets it) we will continue to do so for the next four weeks as well!  With the 50th anniversary of In re Gault now exactly a month away more updates will be coming via blog posts and email blasts.  If anyone involved in the juvenile justice system in N.C. feels inclined to share their ideas/plans for Gault at 50, please contact us so that we can add your event to the website as well.


There are several events for the Gault at 50 celebration still planned in various states for April and May and they can all be found listed under the “Upcoming Events” section of the NJDC website.  Among these events they have also included a CLE in Cary hosted by the N.C. Bar Association titled “Juvenile Representation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow“.

Our office will be announcing more events and ideas to get people involved in the celebration over the next few weeks on the Gault 50 website and this blog, so stay tuned for more to come!

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District 7 CLE, Juvenile Defense Refresher Course on April 20

yoda training

If you’re an active juvenile defender in District 7, please plan to come on out for the Office of the Juvenile Defender’s latest training on Thursday, April 20th.  Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry will be presenting in Nashville, Courtroom 4, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  All defenders in Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties are welcome to come, and there is no fee or registration necessary.  Please bring your questions, ideas, and be ready to network with fellow juvenile defense attorneys in your area!

At the time of this post, CLE credit is pending, but is expected to be approved at a later date.

If you would like more information please feel free to contact us at (919) 890-1650 or by email.  You may also view the flier for this event here.  Thank you and we hope to see you there!

Youth Justice Project Promotes #RaisetheAgeNC Virtual Advocacy Day

Today, starting at 9 a.m. and continuing until 7 p.m., the Youth Justice Project is hosting a Virtual Advocacy Day to raise awareness about the need to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in N.C.  Since New York passed legislation to raise the age to 18 earlier this week, North Carolina now remains the last state to at least include 16-year-olds.

In this event, the Youth Justice Project shares information through various social media outlets, including Twitter and YouTube, and collaborates with various juvenile justice advocates to rally support for House Bill 280.  One YouTube video also features Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry speaking with Ricky Watson on this monumental issue.  You can view the video here.

For more information, please check here and to join the conversation visit the Youth Justice NC Facebook page and tweet @YouthJusticeNC and use #RaisetheAgeNC.

Forms and Motions Update: Motion to Sequester

We have recently updated the “Forms and Motions” section on our “Materials for Defenders” page with a “Motion to Sequester”.  For easy use and editing as needed, this document along with others is provided for the convenience of juvenile defenders.  Please contact our office if you require further assistance.

New Materials – Pocket Gault

On May 15th, we will be acknowledging the 50th anniversary of In re Gault, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed children the same due process rights as adults in delinquency court.  To make sure every lawyer is properly equipped for this monumental event, we have uploaded a PDF version of the pocket Gault booklets to our Materials for Defenders page.  The booklets give a very detailed summary of the historic case and succinct summaries of other cases related to the need for a child to have the right to an attorney, right to notice of charges, right to remain silent, and right to a full hearing on the merits of the case.  Our office also has a limited number of physical copies of the booklets available on request.

Pocket Gault