Week in Review: Feb 8-12

Happy Friday Readers! We hope your week was productive with plenty of moments to catch your breath too. Couple of announcements for you this week, along with a new (and free) OJD CLE!

Tip of the Week!

Where Can I Find the Law on RTA?

If you want to see the Session Laws which include the Raise the Age changes, see:

Senate Bill 413: 2019 Session Amendments to the RTA Bill (Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act)

Senate Bill 257: The final bill budget for Session Law 2017; info pertaining to the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act can be found on pages 309-325

You can also check out the NC General Assembly website.  Look under “Bills and Laws,” then “General Statutes.”  You can search by citation or test, or you can look at Chapter 7B under the Table of Contents, and see the most recent changes to statute text on the right side of the statute.

FROM IDS

The Commission on Indigent Defense Services recently approved a modest, but much-needed, partial restoration of rates paid to private counsel providing representation in some case types. Specifically, the Commission voted to raise by $5 an hour the rate for high-level felonies, with a corresponding increase in non-hourly representation for adult criminal and juvenile delinquency proceedings. The Commission also voted to raise by $5 an hour the rate for DWI and Class A1 misdemeanors disposed of in the district court, with a corresponding increase in non-hourly representation. The increases approved by the Commission will take effect on March 1, 2021. Please click here to read the notice from Darrin Jordan, the Commission Chair, and IDS Executive Director, Mary Pollard. Also, if you have any questions, please reach out to Whitney Fairbanks via email.

Have you seen our #BlackHistoryMonth Spotlights?

Lyana Hunter (left) & Staisha Hamilton (right)

This week we showcased two amazing women and their work within the juvenile defense community. First up was Lyana Hunter and then Staisha Hamilton. To catch up on their spotlights, click here for Lyana and click here for Staisha!

OJD CLE OPPORTUNITY!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 2:30 PM, OJD is hosting “Representing LGBT Youth”. This CLE will be presented by Ames Simmons, the Policy Director for Equality NC. This program will be a 90 minute CLE, with application pending and FREE TO THE FIRST 35 REGISTRANTS. This webinar includes a general review of introductory concepts and terminology related to LGBTQ identities, including the importance of pronouns to professionalism. We will discuss gender-expansive youth and the processes of gender transition for young people. We will talk about LGBTQ youth in out-of-home custody and present best practices for advocating for LGBTQ young people in the juvenile legal system. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

THATS ALL FOR THIS WEEK! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

Youth Assessment & Screening Instrument (YASI)

Youth Assessment & Screening Instrument (YASI)

by Kim Howes, Assistant Juvenile Defender

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is implementing a new screening tool (YASI) to replace the current risk and needs assessment. The stated purpose of this new assessment is to better measure the risk of recidivism and to help develop an appropriate case plan to best suit the needs of the youth who is placed on probation. You can access the presentation from DJJ here.

The assessment addresses nine domains: basic needs, physical health, school, family, aggression, peers, attitudes, free time, and adaptive skills. There is both a pre-screen assessment and a full assessment. The Department of Juvenile Justice provided an overview of the assessment in November and as a result we want to provide you with some of our concerns as well as provide you with issues you may need to be aware of to assist you with advocating for your client at disposition.

Most importantly, this assessment is designed to take place at intake or prior to adjudication. While statute §7B-2413 specifically provides that the risk and needs assessment shall not be submitted or considered by the court prior to disposition, we know that in some jurisdictions this isn’t the case and information is shared prior to adjudication. This is especially an area of concern given the new assessment. As an important reminder – §7B-2408 explicitly prohibits any statement made by the youth to a juvenile court counselor during intake to be admissible to the court prior to the dispositional hearing.

Issues to be aware of:

  • The child accumulates points for not only prior adjudications, but also referrals and petitions filed for probation violations, regardless of whether or not the violation was adjudicated.
  • Several sections (basic needs, free time, community involvement, school) have the potential to create disparity based on poverty and DSS involvement, not necessarily factors that are in our client’s control.
  • There are broad stroke assumptions about who may or may not be a positive influence and who may or may not be a gang member.
  • The sections addressing attitudes and aggression are areas of significant concern. These sections assume the youth is responsible and if the youth doesn’t admit there are points assessed for impact of behavior and willingness to make amends. There are several additional questions that address sex offenses that could possibly lead to additional petitions.

 These concerns are difficult to address because the majority of these assessments will be conducted prior to assignment of counsel. As a result, depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to proactively ensure that any information received is not provided to the ADA prior to adjudication, and if it is, consider objecting to the court and, if necessary, making a motion to suppress statements made to the court counselor. We have a sample motion here.

We hope by making you aware of this new assessment and its potential issues you will be better able to protect your client’s rights and help the court understand your client in a way that will help the court better address your client’s individual needs at disposition. Please reach out to OJD to let us know of any concerns you see as this is implemented.

You can access and review the pre-screen assessment here, and full assessment here.


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Week in Review: July 27-31

Good morning readers! It’s the last week in July, can you believe it? Is time flying by or is it just us? Let’s start your weekend off with a new OJD blog.

Raise the Age Tip of the Week

How Do I Know the State Will be Seeking the Gang Enhancement Against My Juvenile?

Under current law, there is no process for notice to the juvenile and the juvenile’s attorney that the state is seeking the gang enhancement.  As the juvenile’s attorney, you should consider the following:

  • Get a copy of the gang assessment from DJJ prior to adjudication
  • Argue that the notice of gang enhancement be presented pre-adjudication
  • Develop a theory of defense against client’s involvement in gang activity
  • Prepare for a hearing on the issue
  • Request a hearing, similar to an adjudicatory hearing
  • Request the court make findings on the record and appeal where  appropriate

A Bit of Housekeeping!

OJD is working from home for now and if you need to reach us for a case consultation, upcoming training, or have a question about court? Don’t forget you can email us for a faster response! Click here for links to our email addresses.

Upcoming Events

August 7, 2020 from 3:00-4:00 PMJen Story, Tessa Hale, Mary Stansell are presenting a new CLE: Making the Connection- Education Advocacy and Juvenile Defense. Come to this session to learn the basics of special education laws and school-based intervention plans; how to issue-spot when students’ unaddressed needs in schools are exacerbating their behaviors; and how to incorporate this knowledge into your advocacy in a way that sets juveniles up for long-term success.  You can register for this CLE here and will be sent the meeting link information afterwards.

Thursday, August 13, 6:00-7:30 please join us for COVID-19: The State of Our Mental Health Part II. This session will focus on the mental health and issues younger adults and youth are facing due to this pandemic. Featuring Nikki Croteau-Johnson, MA, LPA, Clinical Program Director at NC Child Treatment Program and Dorothy Hairston-Mitchell, Clinical Associate Professor and Supervising Attorney for the Juvenile Law Clinic at NCCU. Please click here to register for the event. You will receive the Zoom link afterward registering.

Opportunity!

LaTobia is looking for guest bloggers to contribute to our Week in Review. Defenders and those in juvenile justice are welcome to write in on topics of their expertise: secure custody, mental health in juveniles, etc! We want to hear from you! There’s plenty more weeks left in the year! Reach out to LaTobia here for more information.

THAT’S ALL FOR JULY! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

Bullying and Juvenile Delinquency Court – Guest Blogger Yolanda Fair

Throughout the country, there have been great efforts to end bullying. School districts throughout North Carolina have started anti-bullying campaigns and initiatives. While all of these efforts are greatly impacting how bullying is perceived and how it’s handled, bullying unfortunately is still a problem for some students.  How does juvenile court respond when a child that has been bullied reacts and fights back? In my short time as juvenile defender, I have already come across many cases where students have reached their last straw. Should children who have been a victim of bullying automatically be diverted? Should they be placed on probation for 12 months when they were the victim?

About six months into my practice as a juvenile defender, I was assigned a case where my client told me she had been bullied. She was charged with simple assault for fighting with another girl in her middle school. My client was very straight forward with me. She told me that she did hit the other girl. It wasn’t self-defense. She was the person who threw the first punch. She also told me that this other girl had been bullying her for months. This girl had a group of friends that would harass my client. This other girl had even followed my client home on several occasions threatening her. My client was afraid of going to school. While teachers at the school were monitoring the situation, my client was afraid that one of the girls’ friends would do something to her. This case was interesting because both children were charged with simple assault. Because they were at the same school, both of the cases were scheduled on the same day. One the day of court, I even witnessed the other girl and her friends making harassing statements to my client and her family outside of the courtroom.

After going through the facts and the discovery in this case, it was definitely clear that my client assaulted the other student. However, I felt uncomfortable having her admit to this charge when she was feeling victimized. I didn’t think probation would serve the purpose of juvenile court. It may have taught her not to hit another student, but it wouldn’t necessarily prevent her from facing similar situations in the future. In this case, she had done everything asked of her. She contacted school officials, spoke to a guidance counselor, and told her parents. The court counselor who was supervising my client had positive things to say about her and how she was doing in school. We spoke with district attorney and arranged an informal deferred prosecution for my client. We continued the case for about three months. During that period, she successfully met established conditions and the charges were dismissed.

I was really happy with the result in this case. While I do wish she didn’t have to be supervised at all, I was happy that my client didn’t have admit to a charge that was result of bullying. I know that informal deferred prosecutions aren’t options for every child or in every jurisdiction. If the client isn’t immediately diverted by the Department of Juvenile Justice, what are the other options? I have had other cases where deferred prosecution wasn’t an option for my client because he or she had other issues and concerns. In those cases, mentioning bullying and how my client responded to it was helpful in disposition.

The initiatives to end bullying are extremely beneficial and have made remarkable progress in the school system. I do think that while bullying still exists, there is a challenge for juvenile defenders and the juvenile justice system to address how the court deals with juveniles who are also victims of bullying.

Yolanda Fair is an Assistant Public Defender with the Buncombe County Public Defender’s Office in Asheville.