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.

Week in Review: June 15-19

Here’s to another Friday in the books! Couple announcements and a bit of history today, and of course your weekly tip. Thanks for all that you continue to do.

Tip of the Week – Building Trust

Investing time is the single most important strategy for building trust and rapport with your client.  You need to listen and ask questions without judgment, and explain why you need to ask certain questions.  Allow your client the opportunity, and encourage him/her to ask questions as well.  Be sure to explain to your client how your role is different from other adults s/he has interacted with (i.e. attorney/client privilege).  And most importantly – never make a promise you can’t keep.  If you say you’re going to do something – do it!

Ahem! Announcements!

Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, also known as Freedom Day. June 19th  is recognized as the African American Emancipation Day after news delivered by Union soldiers in 1865, led by Major General Gordon Granger, announced in Galveston, Texas with news that the last of the enslaved were now free. This occurred TWO YEARS after President Lincoln’s Proclamation.

Today marks 155 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was revealed in Texas and many companies and brands have made this day a paid holiday, acknowledging the struggle and victories of the African-American culture. Other organizations will work to make today a day of learning, promoting knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and self-development. Happy Juneteenth.

NEXT WEEK

OJD will be celebrating and providing educational insight to the LGBTQ+ community as it is the last week of Pride Month. We will be sharing insightful tips on how to address, speak, and represent your LGBTQ+ clients in delinquency courts, as well as a little bit of history. Stay tuned!

And Finally…

CHEERS TO THE WEEKEND!

Week in Review: May 4-8

Thanks for stopping by for another Week in Review! Plenty of meetings and calls this week as NC gears up to reopen our courts and we’re so ready to share new ways to pursue juvenile justice in this new time. Remember, if you have any questions or suggestions, we are more than willing to help.

Also! OJD is looking to develop and provide webinar training to our Juvenile Defenders throughout this pandemic. We are currently requesting topics and information you would like to have discussed. Please email Austine Long with your thoughts. Thank you.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Youth Development Center commitment

We are focusing our Tips of the Week on stages of juvenile proceedings that disproportionately impact youth of color. This week we are considering commitment to a youth development center (YDC):

  • Whenever disposition is being entered for your client, always argue for the lowest level of disposition.  A small number of points, or a violation of probation, can quickly send your client to YDC.
  • Consult with the court counselor and the ADA on their recommendations to the court.  If possible, negotiate a lesser disposition than YDC commitment before court.
  • Meet with your client before the dispositional hearing and provide the court with an alternative disposition plan that considers the safety of the community and your client’s needs.
  • Provide in court testimony from supportive community members.
  • Consider offering the court recent recidivism studies which indicate that commitment to YDC is factor for increased recidivism in juveniles. 

Resources

  • May 14, 2020 at 11 AM: NC CRED presents an interactive round-table webinar with leading experts in the North Carolina public health and criminal justice systems. The webinar will explore current conditions in North Carolina and discuss actionable steps to help mitigate the adverse effects on people in North Carolina who is a webinar about preparing and conducting video conference secure custody hearings. The speaker will discuss best practices, confidentiality and other important issues concerning video conferencing hearings.are involved with the criminal justice system. To register for this webinar, click HERE.
  • From the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the National Juvenile Justice Network member call, “COVID-19: The Heightened Dangers of Confinement” here are some resources they discussed.
  1. Distinction between medical isolation and solitary (AMEND at UCSF)
  2. A list of disability specific issues/resources (NDRN)
  3. Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings
  4. Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators
  5. National Commission on Correctional Healthcare
  6. National Partnership on Juvenile Service
  7. Stop Solitary for Kids
  8. Tolerance.org

Thanks for stopping by!

Week in Review: April 20-24

Hello from Friday with OJD. Another work from home week means that OJD is rounding up resources and information for you, anything we can do to help. It always goes without saying but thank you so much for your dedication to continuing the good (juvenile justice) fight, even from your homes.

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.

Resources

  1. IDS recently released information on how PAC can file fee apps for teleconferencing and interim fee apps. Please visit ncids.org for more information.
  2. Legal Aid-ACS has synthesized the federal and state guidance that has come out to date and offer concrete tips and resources for advocating for students during school closures. You can get more information here. There are five documents: 
  3. On Friday, May 1st from 11 AM to 12 PM, Legal Aid-ACS is also hosting a Coronavirus-and-Education Know Your Rights training via Zoom and Facebook Live.  The ZOOM link is at: https://zoom.us/j/91168580266. This session will include overviews of recent guidance, along with lots of practical tips for advocating for students. For those who can’t attend the live session, a video recording will also be available on Legal Aid of NC’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LegalAidNC ) for families and advocates to access whenever they are available.

THANKS FOR READING!!

AS ALWAYS, HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND AND BE SAFE!!

Week in Review: Apr 13-17

Happy Friday Readers! It’s been another hard (at home) working week for OJD, but with a constant focus on providing the most beneficial and practical information during this time. This week we don’t have a tip for you, rather an important message regarding racial justice for juveniles of color and secure custody. With COVID-19 affecting our detention centers and YDCs, it’s vital to remember that fair treatment includes every juvenile. Read below for viable resources to combat that.

In June 2019 a new study on North Carolina disproportionate minority contact was published.   Using data from DJJ, the study showed that the race of a juvenile contributes to disproportionate negative outcomes, especially for black youth.  Specifically, black youth were more likely to have complaints filed against them, be placed in secure custody, or committed to a youth development center (YDC).  In an attempt to better serve youth color in the system, here are several resources on representing youth of color:

Other Resources from the National Juvenile Defender Center

In addition, the next three tips of the week will focus on the stages of complaints filed, secure custody, and youth development center commitment.

You can also download this post here for your keeping.

North Carolina Defenders

Yesterday we released an important notice regarding operational changes to instituted by state juvenile justice officials in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that may affect youth held in detention. Please continue to refer to that release for resources on how best to serve your clients in secure custody and for the encouragement of alternative options.

THANKS FOR READING AND STAY TUNED FOR NEXT WEEK!

BE SAFE AND STAY HEALTHY!

Juveniles & COVID-19

As you may know, courts around the country are limiting or altogether restricting visitation to juvenile detention to combat the spread of COVID-19. While at a base level, important to the safety and physical health of these youth, another issue has come from these sweeping changes: added mental health stress.

You can read this article from The Marshall Project. With the limits on visitation, youth are concerned for their loved ones, parents cannot see their child, and the implications of the restriction are taking an emotional toll on all.

For our NC Defenders who has juveniles in secure custody please read below:

We wanted to pass on some information regarding youth in detention. We have spoken with DJJ and here is what they have relayed:

  • all legal visits to the detention centers for juvenile will continue
  • attorneys are asked to call the detention center before they visit
  • attorneys may be screened for COVID-19 (asked a couple questions) to ensure the safety of the youth and staff
  • due to the closure of courts and continuances as a result to Chief Justice Beasley’s Executive Order, DJJ is working to have tele-hearing equipment available by early next week. That equipment is being delivered to the facilities and districts today and may also be available to parents and attorneys to visit electronically with their child/clients in detention in a secure and confidential manner. DJJ said they would let our office know when this option is available.

We understand that some of the detention centers may be filling up, with a reduction in alternatives due to the pandemic.  We encourage you to remind the court of low contact options, such as house arrest or electronic monitoring.  Check out our website for materials and information about Detention Advocacy here, or call our office and we will get back with you!

OJD Week in Review: Jan. 22-26

We’re bringing more reminders than big updates this week, but as always we’ve got a few good tidbits of news you can use.

Your Usual Training News

Earlier this week we posted that registration is now open for the “Advocating for Youth Charged with First Degree Murder” training.  Cosponsored by the Office of Indigent Defense Services and the School of Government, this training will be held on March 9 at the UNC School of Government, starting at 8:45 a.m. and ending at 4:15 p.m.  The training will be geared towards attorneys who represent youth in juvenile and superior court and will cover topics including sentencing, mitigation, parole hearings, transfer hearings and the future of Miller cases.  In our previous post we provide details for hotel information, travel reimbursement and registration.

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We’d also like to remind everyone that registration for “Regional Training for Indigent Defense: Defending Sexual Offenses” closes Monday, Jan. 29, at 5 p.m.  This CLE, hosted by the UNC School of Government, will focus on defending sexual offenses with sessions on physical evidence, cross-examining experts, and motions and legal issues.  The event will be held on Feb. 8, 2018 at 1801 Nash St., Sanford, N.C. in the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.  This program is open to all IDS contract attorneys and privately assigned counsel representing indigent clients and will offer 3.0 hours of CLE credit.  There is an $85 registration fee that will cover CLE credits, snacks, and materials.  Please find further details and register here.

New Resources

If you’re in need of CLE credits before the annual deadline, the Indigent Defense Education Group at the School of Government is ready and waiting to help.  With on-demand courses taught by experienced staff and legal professionals, you have the option to take a course for free if you just want to learn something new for the day or pay a fee to obtain your required CLE time.  This should be a valuable resource for all defenders, offering courses in many areas including ethics, mental health/substance abuse, and more.  You can access the on-demand content library here.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has also added a new snapshot to its Statistical Briefing Book, focusing on girls in the juvenile justice system.  This new file offers statistics on the types of offenses committed by girls and comparisons of arrests for certain crimes between males and females, with data gathered up to 2015.  You can find the newest entry in the Statistical Briefing Book here and also check out other recent updates to the database here.

facebookThat completes the news for this week.  We still encourage all stakeholders in the juvenile defense community to feel free to contact us about submitting guest blogs or joining us on our podcast.  And for those of you who are new to juvenile defense, or if you know someone who is interested in juvenile defense, be sure to contact us to be added to our listserv, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter as well.

OJD Week In Review: Nov. 6-10

This week we’ve got a few new resources and updates for you, just in case you haven’t already got them in your own inbox.

In the Week Behind Us

Last week the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice released a report titled “Developmental Reform in Juvenile Justice: Translating the Science of Adolescent Development to Sustainable Best Practice“.  This report is designed to assist local- and state-level organizations with incorporating “adolescent development research into their efforts to maximize improved and sustainable youth outcomes and system performance.”

Wake U

Also last week, NCCRED in collaboration with the Wake Forest University School of Law and Justice Program, the Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy and the Wake Forest University Rethinking Community series held its Community Policing Symposium on Nov. 3.  The event featured a virtual lecture, a video presentation, and several discussions on how to improve relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.  The summary for the event can be read here.

 

Lots of NJJN News

First in National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) news, we wanted to notify everyone that NJJN has  released a call to action to combat racism.  In their statement, NJJN acknowledges efforts in America’s history for civil rights and addresses the shortcomings of the juvenile justice system, particularly for youth of color, but also pointing out the marginalization of LGBTQI youth, children with disabilities and others.  NJJN also asks juvenile justice advocates to evaluate how we have approached racial injustice, to identify leadership, and  ask how we are held accountable.  Please take a moment to read the full article, which can be found here.

Secondly, NJJN has launched a campaign offering recommendations to improve relationships between police and youth of color.  They have a page on their website with a downloadable PDF with data and suggestions for distribution, and a press release template to help groups and individual advocates spread the word and get others involved.

Finally, NJJN has also announced that the Youth Justice Project will be hosting the #NJJNForum2018 in Durham.  This forum will celebrate the passage of Raise the Age in North Carolina and address much-needed reforms, such as eliminating collateral consequences, remedying racial and gender disparities, better access to defense for youth, and stemming the tide of referrals from schools to courts.  Currently, the organizations are seeking volunteers to join the Forum Planning Committee.  Please email Alyson Clements for more details.

Police Platform

More Useful Info

Earlier this week, the North Carolina Bar Association published an article by Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry about the National Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit.  In his writing, Zogry gives a brief account of his experience during the 21st annual conference.  You can read his article here and check out the NJDC page for more info on the Summit.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has created a chart, offering a visual display of data released from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  The data shows the declining rates of adjudicated youth  from 2006-2015, by state.  You can see the chart here.

From the On the Civil Side blog, Professor LaToya Powell’s has a new entry, “The Juvenile Court Counselor’s Role As Gatekeeper.”  You can read Professor Powell’s latest post here.

…and a Final Reminder

We also want to offer one final reminder that the Center for Death Penalty Litigation will be closing applications for its new staff attorney position on Monday, November 13.  You can view the full details about this position and how to apply here.

That is all for now.  We hope everyone has a safe and relaxing Veteran’s Day and there is more to come soon, so be sure to check back with us!

OJD Week In Review: Oct. 23-27

ICYMI

Last weekend, from Oct. 20-22, the National Juvenile Defender Center held its 21st Annual Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit in Albuquerque, NM.

During this year’s Summit, topics included challenging the use of electronic monitoring in juvenile court, the impact of social media, acquiring discovery, unfair fines and fees imposed on youth and their families, expunction, and education advocacy.  N.C. Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry also joined a panel alongside Joshua Dohan, director of the Youth Advocacy Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts, and Devon Lee, legal counsel for the Office of the State Public Defender in Wisconsin, to discuss the challenges and successes of juvenile defense systems in different states.

Other faculty attending the conference included Teayra Turner, project associate at the National Juvenile Defender Center, Richard Ross, a photographer, researcher and Distinguished Professor of Art at the University of CaliforniaRandee Waldman, director of the Barton Juvenile Defender Clinic at Emory University School of Law, and Justice Barbara Vigil of the New Mexico Supreme Court, among many others.  Please find the full list of materials, publications, and other resources from the event here.

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Useful Tidbits

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released a new special report on “Federal Prosecution of Commercial Exploitation of Children.”  This report examines cases prosecuted in the federal criminal court system between 2004 to 2013 and includes offenses related to the possession and production of child pornography and child sex trafficking.

The National Juvenile Justice Network has released a new policy platform which provides recommendations on improving relationships between law enforcement and youth of color.  The recommendations in this document include ending the militarization of law enforcement, racial profiling, and policies on use of force.  The full article can be found here.

SYJ

Strategies for Youth (SFY) has provided two new resources in its October newsletter.  The first of these resources, “The Parent Checklist“, is a tool that has been updated to address how school resource officers (SRO) are trained to handle and informed of the conditions of students with special needs and children with immigrant status.  The checklist also has sections to evaluate how parents are notified of complaints against their child, how resource officers are trained, the working agreements between law enforcement and schools, and SROs’ relationships with school faculty.  The second resource, “Be Her Resource“, is actually only referenced by SFY, but created by the National Black Women’s Justice Institute and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.  “Be Her Resource” offers insights into the disproportionate contact between for girls of color and law enforcement in schools.

Last Chances and New Opps

We also want to offer one final reminder that applications for the NJDC Gault Fellowship are due on Monday, Oct. 30.  Tell any recent law school graduates you know to hurry and get those references, resumes, and cover letters polished!  The full details for how to apply can be found here.

NJDC has also distributed info for an opening for a full-time training chief with the Massachusetts-based Committee for Public Counsel and an opening for an assistant public defender for juvenile delinquency in the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.  The deadline for applications are Nov. 6 and Nov. 13, respectively.

Those are all of the updates we have for now, but we will be providing more news and activities on next week.  Have a great weekend!

Three New Reports Impacting Special Juvenile Populations

Three new reports were released addressing special juvenile populations: