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.

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: Nov 30 – Dec 4

Happy December Readers! Can you honestly believe we are in DECEMBER already? With everything we have collectively experienced in 2020, raise your hand if you’re ready for a new year! So let’s start our countdown together, shall we?

LET’S CELEBRATE ONE YEAR OF RAISE THE AGE!

It’s officially been 1 year (and 3 days to be exact) since Raise the Age went into effect. One year of some legal shaking in the courtroom, 1 year of 16 and 17 year old’s who commit crimes (with exceptions) being treated as youth and not adults, in the eyes of the law. How has RTA affected your stance in the courtroom? Has it been more difficult, challenging or a breeze? We want to hear from you!

Tip of the Week – RTA Edition

What Is the Process for Indictment?

Once a petition is filed against a juvenile, the prosecutor may submit the petition to a grand jury for indictment.  Unlike in adult criminal court where the prosecutor submits a bill of information prior to charges being filed, in juvenile court the grand jury process starts after the formal charging process (petition filed) begins.  If an indictment is handed down against the juvenile and the juvenile is given notice, the juvenile court must transfer the case to superior court.

JOB POSTING!

The Council for Children’s Rights in Charlotte / Mecklenburg County. They are seeking to hire a full-time Juvenile Defense Attorney to join its Children’s Defense Team.  The Juvenile Defense Attorney will represent children in delinquency and civil commitment matters in Mecklenburg County Juvenile Court.  To apply, please submit a cover letter and resume by December 7, 2020. 

A direct link to this job posting and to apply can be found by clicking here.  Please feel free to share this on your social media and with your colleagues. We have also posted this on our Twitter (@NCOJD) and our FaceBook (@NCOJD) for easy re-sharing.

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.

Week in Review: Oct 5-9 (edited)

Welcome to another Freaky Friday! For real this time. Apologies for the “it’s Thursday guys, not actually Friday” OJD blog email. This spooky season is giving OJD a run for it’s money! Where are the Ghostbusters when you need them? Keep reading for updated information & resources!

Important Fee App Information

There has been an increase in fee apps that have had errors in filing and causing delay in payment. We have gathered some information and created a memo to both Public Defenders and PAC to ensure accurate and timely filing for your fee apps, including which forms to file per your title and what to double check. Please see this memo for further instructions and feel free to download and print for your reference.

Tip of the Week

Procedures for a probable cause hearing in juvenile court are similar to those in adult court.  However, N.C.G.S. §7B-2202(c) mandates that the State shall show probable cause “by non-hearsay evidence or evidence that satisfies an exception to the hearsay rule.”  The State must present actual witnesses at the hearing in order to demonstrate each element of the felony offense.  Reiteration by law enforcement of third-party testimony acquired during the investigation does not satisfy this requirement.  There are exceptions for some reports and evidence regarding value, ownership, possession but remember that those exceptions do not apply at the adjudicatory hearing.

Announcements!

October CLE – Probation Violations & Post-Supervision

Thursday, October 29 from 2:30-3:30 PM, OJD brings Mary Stansell to the training floor. The webinar will cover the law on probation violations and post release supervision in delinquency court. It will address 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.

New Report: Youth Justice Under the Coronavirus

The Sentencing Project released its new report, Youth Justice Under the Coronavirus: Linking Public Health Protections to the Movement for Youth Decarceration. Summarizing lessons learned through the first months of the pandemic, and bringing focus to system responses to slow the virus’s spread to protect the safety and wellbeing of youth in the juvenile justice system. To read this report, click here.

Virtual Townhall – APA

Wednesday October 21, 2020 at 8:00 pm (EST), the American Psychiatric Association Foundation is offering a virtual town hall with featured panelists: Anish Ranjan Dube, M.D., MPH, FAPA; Sarah Vinson, M.D., and Randee Waldman, J.D. During this virtual town hall, adult, child & adolescent, and forensic psychiatry leaders, along with a Juvenile Justice legal expert, will participate in a discussion about what disruptive behaviors in youth mean, how to approach those behaviors as parents, school staff, and adults in communities, and how it relates to the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Click here to register.

Diversion Reform – NJDC Provided Resource

The Urban Institute recently released a report Assessing Juvenile Diversions in Kentucky. The report and a summary of key findings and talking points are attached. We hope these resources will be helpful for those of you who are working on expanding diversion and for arguments about stemming system involvement. Please see below for a list of resources.

“From a Lawyer’s View” Wants YOU to Be a Guest Blogger

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.

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 8-12

Welcome to the start of your weekend, but of course we couldn’t leave without another week in review.

Tip of the Week

Before You Plea: Talk to your client about the impacts of an adjudication.  While not as public as adult criminal convictions, juvenile adjudications may impact the following: immigration status, educational placement, housing conditions, eligibility to play sports, placement on a sex offender registry (in N.C. or other states) and others.  Always consider the long-term consequences of what may first appear to be a short-term decision.

Training

Today is the last day of the 2020 SJDC Virtual Summit. There’s still time to register for another great topic: Where Do We Go From Here: Juvenile Defense Post COVID-19 with Moderator: Rob Mason and Panelists: Amy Borror, Kristen Rome, Eric Zogry. Click here for the registration link. CLE will be offered as well. This course starts at 2:00 PM

Upcoming Webinar, Thursday, June 25, 3:00PM: Best Practice Interviewing of Children in Sexual Abuse Cases. Dr. John Helminski is presenting and is a licensed psychologist who is board certified in forensic psychology. He acts as a consultant to attorneys in cases of child maltreatment with extensive experience conducting forensic and psychological assessments in child abuse cases. Please use this link to register.

While not a CLE course, OJD is starting our Juvenile Defender Forums. This will be an opportunity to meet your regional juvenile defender and network with other juvenile defense attorneys in your district. Keep a watch out for your email invite!

Lastly… Earlier this week, OJD released a statement regarding the recent protests and killing of George Floyd. You can read that here.

That will wrap up another great week at OJD. Thank you for stopping by and we’ll see you (virtually) soon!

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!