Week in Review: Jan 11-15

Happy Friday Readers! We have another blog for you, filled with resources and upcoming events AND an OJD sponsored CLE. So get settled in and let’s get started.

TIP OF THE WEEK – RTA EDITION

How Will Secure Custody Hearings Be Different for 16 and 17 Year Olds?

Currently, review of secure custody hearings are held every 10 days after the initial secure custody hearing.  For 16 and 17 year old’s charged with a Class A through G offense, review of secure custody hearings are held every 30 days after the initial secure custody hearing.  However, the hearings may be held every 10 days on motion of the juvenile or the juvenile’s attorney for good cause shown.

Resources

Our very own Assistant Juvenile Defender, Kim Howes wrote a blog on the new YASI tool along with some practical advice and a motion. If you haven’t had a chance to read that blog, please click here.

February 5, 2021, NC CRED is hosting a free virtual symposium beginning at 1 PM. Please click here to register. Here is a brief synopsis of the program:

“First, a panel of historians (Timothy Lovelace, Seth Kotch, and David Cecelski) will describe the historical origins of these modern forms of brutality. Second, a panel of activists and advocates (Dawn Blagrove, Will Elmore, and Henderson Hill) will discuss the ways racial violence is wielded today and the importance of exposing its historical roots. Finally, keynote speaker James Ferguson will offer closing thoughts on how we reckon with racial terror, in all its forms, to end its grip on our nation.

CLE Opportunities

Thursday, January OJD is hosting, Trauma Informed Practice. CLE approval is pending and OJD will cover the cost of the CLE for the first 35 registrants. This will be a 90 minute CLE, from 2:30-4:00 PM.

Presented by Jason T. Mahoney, a Certified Trauma-Centered Family Coach & Certified Group Facilitator, the session provides an in depth look at secondary trauma (Vicarious Trauma). It focuses on professionals who work with youth and families. The training includes an overview of how trauma impacts the brain, development and life functioning. The presenter will provide tools to build resiliency, and will offer other skills and resources to help professionals develop a trauma informed practice.

To register for this CLE, please click this link.

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The NACDL is hosting, Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases, February 24-27. This virtual online training will bring some of the nation’s most experienced lawyers and experts to help you understand these issues, offer ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing. To view CLE credit and cost and to register, please click here.

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Lastly, you may know or remember from last year that IDS offered 11 free-to-attend webinars on forensic evidence. This year IDS will continue to offer the webinars as part of a more formal series, which will help make it easier for you to attend, while getting CLE credit! This new series will start on Feb. 4.

If you’d like to attend some or all of the programs, please sign up using the link below. We look forward to seeing you on the webinars! 

2021 IDS Forensic Science Education Series

That’s all for this week Readers, thanks for reading and we’ll catch you next week!

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.


If you would like to save this blog post as a document, please click here.

Week in Review: Jan 4-8

Happy New Year Readers! We hope your holiday was relaxing, lazy, and full of what makes you happy. It’s time to get back to work & as always, OJD is here to round up the week.

Tip of the Week

Complaints Received

We are focusing our Tips of the Week on stages of juvenile proceedings that disproportionately impact youth of color. This week we are considering complaints received:

Attorneys are appointed to cases once a complaint is received by juvenile justice, then filed as a complaint.  So generally attorneys can’t impact whether or not a complaint is received.  But attorneys can prevent the case from going to adjudication by:

  • Asking for a dismissal for various reasons, such as the victim no longer wishes to prosecute or the juvenile has already made amends through a mediation program or restitution.
  • Continue the case for an opportunity for the juvenile to participate in a program such as suggested above, or Teen Court if your jurisdiction has one.
  • After an admission, ask the court to informally defer prosecution without an adjudication.  While the Code does not explicitly discuss this, prosecutors have broad discretion to dismiss allegations under N.C.G.S. 7B-2404.  If an adjudication is entered, the court may still “dismiss the case” under 7B-2501(d), in effect not entering a disposition.

Reminders!

  1. You may know or remember from last year that IDS offered 11 free-to-attend webinars on forensic evidence. This year IDS will continue to offer the webinars as part of a more formal series, which will help make it easier for you to attend, while getting CLE credit! This new series will start on Feb. 4.

If you’d like to attend some or all of the programs, please sign up using the link below. We look forward to seeing you on the webinars! 

2. Duke University has only had a handful of responses from NC public defenders, and would really like more so that they can more accurately learn about practices in North Carolina specifically. 

You can find the survey at this link (https://virginia.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3V6Ob2DbXpPl4K9), and it will only take about 10 minutes to complete, and they will mail you a gift-card for your participation. The survey will be closing soon, so please complete it in the next two weeks.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to william.crozier@duke.edu.

3. Have you seen the new Juvenile Code? See a sneak peek below! Thanks to Eric for the picture.

From LaTobia,

I am seeking guest writers for our blog for each month this year, specifically those in juvenile defense or youth advocacy work. Topics will be of your choice, but should include some supporting information such as statutes, cases or graphics. These blogs are geared to help fellow attorneys and create discussion in regards to juvenile proceedings and court processes. Feel free to send me an email at latobia.s.avent@nccourts.org so we can discuss this further or if you’d like to volunteer. Also, feel free to send this message to your colleagues and friends, whoever may be a great contributor. Thanks!

Your 2020 Year in Review

We have reached the Year in Review portion of our weekly reviews! How did we get here so fast?! While this year has been the most challenging, between Zoom & WebEx, crashing technology and “Can you hear me?” ten times a day, everyone has worked so hard to keep our support of #JuvenileJustice strong. So true to tradition we have put together a culmination of what OJD has done throughout the year and it feels like so much :D.

With the tremulous year of 2020 ending, The Office of the Juvenile Defender (OJD) would like to recap how the year unfolded through it all. We’ll review how OJD hired a new Assistant Juvenile Defender, hosted new trainings, managed the first year of Raise the Age (RTA), and produced several materials as required for the second year of the federal OJJDP grant. OJD has worked throughout the year to keep our defenders informed and supported, while working on new ways to serve the state, such as our Regionalization plan.

Activities and Initiatives Since COVID-19 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, OJD has held weekly check-ins to speak about current projects, ways to engage in the community without physical contact, and how to support defenders in the best way through the various projects listed in this report. OJD has been reaching out to defenders in the field, offering support and resources and gathering information to relay to the defender community.  Additionally, we have communicated with other court actors, especially juvenile justice administration, to stay updated with ongoing changes in policies and procedures. We began work on additional pocket guides like the RTA guide released in December. Each guide will highlight a specific area of juvenile delinquency law and provide defender strategies, such as secure custody and adjudication. We also began developing remote training capabilities and plan to pilot trainings during the court closure. Each one of these activities and initiatives will be discussed further below along with updates from the initiatives from 2019.

Raise the Age

              While RTA implementation has been slowed by the impact of COVID on the courts, OJD has been steadily reacting to the impact of the new law: 

  • General consulting on trial and appellate issues 
  • Focusing on specific issues, including indictment procedure and the intersection of bonds with youth in detention 
  • Challenging the “automatic” transfer provisions through motions practice 
  • Working with IDS General Counsel on the development of a comprehensive chart on the appointment/payment/recoupment of attorneys representing transferred juveniles 
  • Participation on the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee, with a focus on discussing ongoing conforming changes to the law, as well as the minimum age of juvenile jurisdiction in NC (it is currently 6, the lowest stated age in the U.S.) 

Take a break, settle in and get comfy, and read our 2020 Year in Review here.

Week in Review: Dec 7-11

Hello from another Friday Readers! We’re inching closer and closer to a new year and even closer to cold weather. Hope you’re staying warm and cozy while you keep up the amazing work of juvenile defense or advocating for juvenile rights. And next week, we’ll be recapping what a year 2020 has been within OJD and the NC Court System. See you then!

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

ncIMPACTFaceBook Live Event

LaToya Blackmon Powell will be participating in a live panel discussion about School Justice Partnerships, hosted by Anita Brown-Graham, Professor of Public Law and Government and Director of the ncIMPACT initiative at the School of Government. The discussion will be filmed by UNC-TV as a Facebook Live event from 12-1 PM this coming Monday, December 14.

We hope you are able to attend and participate in the virtual discussion and/or share the information with others who may be interested. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and engage in an interactive conversation.

Juvenile Defense Policy and Practice Resource Guide

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is pleased to announce the release of their updated Juvenile Defense Policy and Practice Career Resource Guide.  Every year, NJDC updates this guide to provide students and others with valuable resources to jumpstart a career in juvenile defense. NDJC has created this electronic guide to raise the profile of juvenile defense as a career.  It is intended for law students interested in pursuing juvenile defense as a career and includes information on coursework and externships that will help strengthen a candidate’s application in the juvenile defense field; resources to guide in the search for juvenile defense jobs, fellowships, and funding opportunities; and a list of offices around the country that provide employment and internship opportunities specific to juvenile defense. Please feel free to use it as a resource and share with others who may be interested!

Now Seeking 2021 “From a Lawyer’s View”  Guest Bloggers

LaTobia is looking for guest bloggers to contribute to our new series, “From a Lawyer’s View”. 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! We’ll take your tips and blog posts! Reach out to LaTobia here for more information.

Week in Review: Oct 26-30

Trick or Treat Readers! We hope you had a great week, and that your Zoom and WebEx calls were safe from the Bandwidth Ghost.

Tip of the Week

Immigration Consultations 

Did you know that IDS has made immigration consultants available to all defenders who have been appointed indigent clients? That means all of your juvenile clients! This may be especially helpful to determine if your client may be eligible for some type of immigration relief since s/he is a juvenile. Simply go to the IDS website to access the form here. You may want to print out the printable version and put it in your case file to fill out when you meet your client and then upload the information when you get back to the office.

Thank you to everyone who attended our “haunted” CLE, Probation and Post Supervision. While we did not anticipate the WebEx issues, we do have some great tips to share from our WebEx admin:

  • If you do not have a @NCCOURTS.ORG email domain, next time you go to WebEx, just click Join Meeting. Do not click Sign-In but rather just follow the prompts as they appear. If it asks for a meeting number, it is located in your registration approval email.
  • Remember that some applications delete this email if you add it to your calendar, which is also a direct link to the meeting and all you’ll need is the password.

We appreciate your patience while these WebEx kinks get worked out in court and for everything else!

Resources

  • What exactly is a YDC or Detention Center?: This YouTube video explains what Detention Centers and Youth Development Centers (YDC) are, the differences and what attorneys, parents, and youth can expect if their adjudication includes a stay in either. Please watch this short video created by NC DPS.
  • North Carolina Department of Public Safety Juvenile Justice Section will begin using a new risk and needs assessment instrument beginning January 1, 2021. This new tool is called the Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI).  DJJ is offering virtual Q&A’s on the new tool to assist with the use when it launches. Please click here to see times to sign up for a session, REGISTRATION ENDS TODAY!
  • Public Defenders and Assistant Public Defenders, check out this grant information to assist with law school debt. The JRJ grant is a loan assistance program. The federal John R. Justice (JRJ) grant is available for prosecutors and public defenders most in need of assistance with heavy law school debt load. The JRJ grant is a loan repayment assistance program.  Selections will be made by the NC LEAF Board on Friday, December 4 at 10 AMApplications are due November 13 and the process is not onerous. The key factor is making the required three-year commitment to remain in the job or face repayment of funds provided by the US government. All the information is available on their website https://ncleaf.org/ 
  • October 15-16, NJDC held their 2020 Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit. Filled with presentations, resources and conversation, NJDC has released some of their resources from the program for your viewing and saving. Some sessions and resources require a password, so make sure you’re registered, but click here to check out what you missed!
  • The Public Defender Education group at the School of Government is happy to announce the release of the 2020 edition of the North Carolina Defender Manual, Volume Two, Trial, by Julie Lewis and John Rubin. The manual focuses on criminal procedure at the trial stage and includes chapters researched and written from 2018 to 2020. The manual is intended to be a resource for trial-level criminal defense attorneys; however, others who work in North Carolina’s criminal courts may find it useful. Click here if you are interested in purchasing a hard copy. The manual is also available for viewing online at no charge as a part of the Indigent Defense Manual Series

We hope you find some great -information this week and have a safe, fun, and scary Halloween! Eat plenty of Snickers for us!

Interstate Compact for Juveniles Overview – Week in Review: Oct 12-16

Happy Friday Defenders! Today’s blog post is one giant Tip of the Week written by our Assistant Juvenile Defender, Terri Johnson. This tip covers the Interstate Compact for Juveniles and is an overview of the enforceable federal law and how it is applied to juvenile delinquency court.

Interstate Compact for Juveniles Overview

Please continue reading today’s blog post by following the link above. Feel free to print yourself a copy and if you have any questions, please email Terri (terri.a.johnson@nccourts.org).

Announcement

There’s still space and time to get your FREE CLE credit from OJD this month. Thursday, October 29 from 2:30-3:30 PM: Probation Violations & Post Supervision, covering ongoing detention hearings as well as violations of probation and post release supervision. Commitment extensions, motions for review, and expunctions will also be covered. This CLE will be free to the first 35 registrants and CLE is currently pending approval. Please join us for a fresh new topic, great strategy and a few tips. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

From a Lawyer’s View: Resolution of complaints against Guilford and Vance County school systems

Resolution of complaints against Guilford and Vance County school systems means better services for incarcerated students with disabilities

By Tessa Hale, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina’s statewide education justice project, Advocates for Children’s Services.

The first time I visited my client at Vance County Jail, an adult facility, I asked him what he did to fill his time.  He told me that he did push-ups.  He was just 17 years old at that time.  As his education attorney, I knew that as a student who had long ago been identified as needing special education, he was entitled to an education provided by the local school district.  His mother had alerted us to the fact that as he sat in jail, he had not been receiving any educational services whatsoever.  At that time, this client’s case was one of three in our office in which the client had received no educational services while incarcerated in adult jail.  The other two had been incarcerated in Guilford County.  Our education team at Legal Aid decided to file two systemic state complaints on May 29, 2020 with the Department of Public Instruction.

We are proud to announce that the systemic state complaints Legal Aid of North Carolina filed against Guilford County Schools and Vance County Schools have recently been resolved.  The Guilford County Schools complaint was resolved via confidential agreement. The Vance County complaint was resolved following an investigation by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. More information, including links to documents, follows. 

Guilford County

Legal Aid was pleased with the opportunity to work with Guilford County Schools (GCS) to advance policies and procedures, some of which were already underway by the district, that will enable GCS to improve services for incarcerated students with disabilities by:

  • Reviewing and revising current procedures to require that all GCS students with disabilities incarcerated in any Guilford County jail receive appropriate special educational services;
  • Designating an employee to be responsible for ensuring legally compliant special educational services for students incarcerated in local jails for more than ten school days as well as continuity of educational services when the students exit from local jails;
  • Training special education staff regarding appropriate special educational services for incarcerated students; and
  • Conducting an internal audit for the 2019-2020 school year to determine whether special education services and related safeguards were properly afforded to GCS students with disabilities who were incarcerated in local jails for more than 10 school days and had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) during incarceration.

Learn more

Vance County

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s investigation into our complaint uncovered widespread violations of the rights of incarcerated students with disabilities in Vance County Schools (VCS). The department has mandated VCS to follow a corrective action plan, which includes:

  • Various trainings for staff, not only regarding incarcerated students but also concerning other general procedural requirements for students with disabilities;
  • Development of procedures to serve students incarcerated in the local jail;
  • Compensatory education for the named student in the complaint; and
  • Identification of eligible students who were incarcerated with the named complainant and did not receive appropriate services, for the purposes of providing them with compensatory education.

Learn more

The resolution of these complaints comes at a time when the population of youth incarcerated in adult jails has shrunk significantly. As a result of a new state law that went into effect on August 1, 2020, no more minors will be held in adult jail. Still, because the right to special education continues for students who are 18 to 21 and have not yet graduated, the developments in both the GCS and VCS resolutions will help ensure that eligible incarcerated students at all stages receive the special education services they are entitled to. Further, some students who may be identified through audits and who were improperly served before the law was passed will now be entitled to remedies.

Week in Review: Sept 14-18

Readers! Have we been the only ones looking forward to Friday? We can’t be. So let’s get your weekend started with a fresh blog and a couple slices of information pizza (yeah….we’d rather have a large NY Pepperoni too!)

Heads Up!

OJD is working from home and voicemail’s are checked every other day. For the fastest reply and communication, please send us an email. Email’s can be found HERE on our contact page, if you need. THANKS!

TIP OF THE WEEK – Brought to you by Raise the Age

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.

HAVE YOU REGISTERED YET?

Friday September 25, 2020, 2:30-3:30 PM OJD is hosting “Defend Children From ICE.” Presented by Helen Parsonage, Board Certified Immigration Specialist and FREE to the first 35 DEFENDERS who register. Discussing the topic of children and immigration, strategies in your defense and other great information, You DON’T want to miss this training. Register herePLEASE PUT YOUR BAR NUMBER IN THE JOB FIELD BOX.

Symposium: The Roles of Prosecutor and Public Defender in Criminal Justice Reform

October 2, 2020 from 10:00AM-3:00PM (EST). This will be a virtual symposium presented by the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NC CRED) in collaboration with the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. The Keynote Speaker is Jonathan Rapping, Founder and President, Gideon’s Promise, Atlanta and will also feature presentations from prosecutors and defenders from across the country and of course, North Carolina. You can see a list of speakers and topics, by clicking HERE. To register, click HERE. Thank you!

A Bit of Information Pizza…

The School of Government has issued a new bulletin on Indigent Defense practice during COVID-19. The principal author Ian Mance, is the COVID-19 Resource Attorney in the public defense education group at UNC. Here is the link: https://www.sog.unc.edu/publications/bulletins/indigent-defense-attorneys-and-covid-19-faqs-about-practicing-during-pandemic

Click HERE for a link to an earlier bulletin by Ian about possible grounds for securing release of inmates during COVID-19

For additional resources, please see the COVID-19 Tool Kit on the School of Government Public Defense Education website.

As always, thanks for all that you do for our youth, communities and neighbors. Have a safe, socially distanced weekend, enjoy the upcoming Fall and we will see you next week.

From a Lawyer’s View: The Importance of Creativity in the Representation of Juveniles at Disposition

Happy Friday Readers! No Week in Review this week, but please keep reading for our 2nd installment in our new series: “A Lawyer’s View.”

The Importance of Creativity in the Representation of Juveniles at Disposition: Advocating for Alternative Dispositions

Dispositional hearings often feel a bit like the players are on the scene of the Bill Murray movie “Ground Hog Day.” The juvenile court counselor presents his or her recommendations to the court. The attorney has no questions but desires to be heard. The attorney says a few nice things about his or her client. The Court makes findings, and then adopts the recommendations of the court counselor. This scene is repeated regularly every day in delinquency court.

Although much of the time the recommendations of the juvenile court counselor are well-suited to address the juvenile’s rehabilitative and treatment needs, it is the duty of the juvenile’s attorney to make recommendations for alternative solutions when appropriate. Often, that necessitates a bit of creativity on the part of the attorney for the juvenile.

N.C.G.S. §7B-2506 provides a comprehensive list of dispositional alternatives available to the court for delinquent juveniles. These dispositional alternatives are affected by the dispositional limits for each class of offense and the delinquency history level of the juvenile. (See N.C.G.S. §7B-2506-2508)

The first step to making creative suggestions to the court regarding the dispositional alternatives is for a juvenile’s attorney to make themselves knowledgeable about the services available in their community. Attorneys who represent juveniles in delinquency cases should also get to know their clients, and the client’s parents in order to determine the juvenile’s rehabilitative and treatment needs.

Oftentimes, parents of the juvenile are well-equipped to ensure that the juvenile’s needs are being met. Attorneys should meet with their clients ahead of the scheduled court date and make inquiry of the parents regarding the needs of the juveniles, and what provisions can be made prior to the disposition to show the Court that the parents can meet these rehabilitative and treatment needs. Parents can arrange for therapy, substance abuse treatment, private community service, or any number of other services. Parents can implement in-home punishments such as a curfew, attend school regularly, remain on good behavior, not associate with anyone deemed inappropriate by the parent, or be at any place deemed inappropriate by the parent. These are typical conditions of a juvenile’s probation that do not necessarily require supervision by a juvenile court counselor. The juvenile’s attorney should prepare to inform the court regarding the conditions put in place by the juvenile’s parents, the parents’ plans for implementation, and provide examples of how the parents’ plans are being carried out in the home.

When an appropriate plan can be implemented by a juvenile’s parents, the juvenile’s attorney can ask the court to dismiss the disposition, or to place conditions on the juvenile under the parents’ supervision. Remember not all juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent require the supervision of a juvenile court counselor to address their rehabilitative and treatment needs. Attorneys should not rely on the juvenile court counselor’s court report to determine what those rehabilitative and treatment needs are. Attorneys should be prepared at disposition to advise the court regarding the needs of the juvenile and to make recommendations regarding the best way to address those needs.

Attorneys can get too comfortable with the “groundhog effect,” walking into court on the disposition court date, reading the recommendations of the juvenile court counselor, and not coming prepared to make their own recommendations. Oftentimes, this is because they assume that the judges are also on autopilot and reflexively adopt those recommendations. Judges look to the juvenile court counselor, the assistant district attorney, and the attorney for the juvenile to inform them of the juvenile’s rehabilitative and treatment needs and to make suggestions tailored to address these needs. Taking a little time to educate yourself about resources available in the community and to inform yourself about the needs of the client will assist you with becoming more creative in your suggestions to the court, and in achieving a better outcome for your client.

Written by: Honorable Christine Underwood. Judge Underwood presides over district court in Judicial District 22A, which includes Alexander and Iredell counties. She has been on the bench since January 2009. Before that, Judge Underwood was in private practice. She held a contract with the State of North Carolina to represent juveniles in delinquency court. Her other areas of practice included parent representation in Abuse/Neglect/Dependency court, criminal law, and family law. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Appalachian State University in 1994 and received her Juris Doctor from Campbell University’s Normal Adrian Wiggins School of Law in 2004.