The North Carolina State Bar Journal has published an article from the Office of the Juvenile Defender in its Summer 2017 issue in honor of In re Gault. The article, titled “Juvenile Defenders Reflect on Their Careers and 50 Years Since”, is a Q&A-style piece written by Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry and features Barbara Fedders, assistant professor at UNC School of Law and director of the Youth Justice Clinic, Mary Stansell, juvenile chief of the Wake County Public Defender Office, Sabrina Leshore, attorney of Leshore Law Firm, PLLC, and executive director of CROSSED, Scott Dennis, associate at Bringewatt Snover, Starr Ward, juvenile defender in Guilford County, Mitch Feld, director of Children’s Defense at the Council for Children’s Rights in Charlotte, and Yolanda Fair, assistant public defender in Buncombe County.
Juvenile defenders were asked a variety of questions, ranging from who influenced their practice and why they became involved in delinquency law to what advice they would pass on to the next generation of defenders and what keeps them going on the toughest days of their career.
When asked what she finds most and least rewarding about practicing in juvenile court, Fedders said, “I like forming relationships with kids. The lawyer-client relationship is unique and special. What I like least is how little impact court involvement has on a kid, how meaningless the court proceedings typically are to kids.”
On the subject of Gault and it’s influence on their practice, the interviewees also provided very passionate, thoughtful responses. Mitch Feld stated “The Gault decision has increased my passion to tell others that children have the same rights as adults do. People tend to be very quick to say ‘well it’s just a child’ or ‘they’re a child so they won’t know what to decide.’ Minimizing children and treating them like second-class citizens causes me to fight even harder for them to be treated like anyone else.”
The article was released digitally about a week ago and the PDF version can be found here. Now the printed version is also available and we want to encourage everyone to get a copy to read the words of wisdom from these inspirational people.