Juvenile Defenders Reflect on Gault & Their Careers in the N.C. State Bar Journal

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.

2017BarJournal_120101Juvenile 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.

 

 

 

OJD Big Week Wrap-Up: Gault, H280, and Training

It’s been an eventful week for our office and just to keep everyone in the loop on what’s been going on, we’ve prepared a quick summary of the excitement for you here!

Monday, May 15, was the 50th anniversary of In re Gault.  Our office hosted a successful Twitter Town Hall with the help of representatives from the Administrative Office of the Courts, the N.C. Advocates for Justice, ACLU, the Council for Children’s Rights, the N.C. Bar Association, the Office of the Appellate Defender and others.  During the event we GAULTat50_TwitterTownHall_1discussed what it means to fulfill the promise of Gault and the need to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in N.C.  Governor Roy Cooper also chimed in using our hashtag, #Gault50NC, and his tweets for  were listed several times on the top tweets in NC!

Prior to the Twitter event, our office also debuted our video discussing Gault and Raise the Age on social media.  The video stars Communications and Office Manager Marcus Thompson and was created in collaboration with Chris Mears of AOC.

Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry also attended the Gault at 50 Gala in Washington, D.C that evening.  During the gala, Eric met with many other leaders in juvenile defense from across the country.

The National Juvenile Defender Center also released its report titled Access Denied: A National Snapshot of States’ Failure to Protect Children’s Right to Counsel, highlighting the shortcomings of states across the country in fulfilling the promise of Gault.

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The Annual Spring Public Defenders and Investigator Conference was held in Charlotte from May 17-19.  This was the first year two juvenile tracks were offered,  with one covering protection from ICE and another on education advocacy.  Our own Assistant Juvenile Defender Kim Howes participated in the conference and also assisted in getting the two juvenile defense courses included this year.  (*applause* Great job, Kim!)

On Wednesday, House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, had its second hearing in the House.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, Rep Marcia Morey, and others stood to voice their support of the bill.  Arguments made in favor of the bill addressed the need to protect youth from physical assault in adult prisons, higher rates of recidivism among youth incarcerated with adults, the suffering of youth with disabilities in the justice system, and youth being imprisoned in the criminal system for crimes as simple as littering or performing harmless pranks.

Rep. Larry Pittman and others did stand to voice their concerns and opposition to the bill.  Pittman asked fellow representatives to forget that N.C. was standing alone in keeping 15 as the maximum age for juveniles, and “not to go easy on offenders based on age”, but to consider the victims of their crimes instead.  Some representatives only proposed that the bill be amended to include F-I felonies and other minor changes, but still voiced their support for raising the age.  Concerns about recurring gang activity among youth who are given too much leniency in juvenile court were also brought up.  The most common point of opposition seemed to be about the budget.

In closing, McGrady addressed the opposition, saying that there is a budget in place and pointing out that there were more people complaining about the costs than the law itself.  In the end, the bill was passed in a 104-8 vote!

We want to celebrate these successes and also look for more opportunities to improve the juvenile justice system in N.C.  There are still plenty of training events scheduled for the remainder of the year, more work to be done in the protection of children’s rights, and a lot of preparation for when N.C. finally raises the age.  Let’s continue gaining more successes and let us know your thoughts for what could be done going forward!

50 Years of In re Gault!

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision of In re Gault! Because of Gault children are guaranteed the same rights as adults in the justice system, including the right to an attorney (as in N.C.’s own family of some of the finest juvenile defenders in the U.S.!), the right to notice of charges, the right to remain silent and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.

As proud North Carolinians and in honor of the people who champion the rights of children in every field, we want to bring attention to this monumental occasion and the events going on specifically in our state.  Firstly, there are some court actors who will possibly be giving presentations regarding the significance of Gault across N.C. at the courthouses.  Secondly, we would like to remind everyone about the Office of Juvenile Defender’s #Gault50NC Twitter Town Hall discussion today at noon, so please tweet your questions and thoughts on Gault‘s importance on juvenile justice in N.C. and Raise the Age.

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Thanks to our friends at the Administrative Office of the Courts we have also created a video regarding Gault and what North Carolina has done to fulfill the promise, which can be viewed here.

And you can also listen to Bob Simmons, executive director of Council for Children’s Rights, District Court Judge Elizabeth Thornton Trosch, and Mujtaba Mohammed, assistant of public defender of Mecklenburg County discuss due process rights afforded by Gault and raising the age in North Carolina on WFAE 90.7.

Job Opportunity-CFCR seeks a Juvenile Defense Attorney

The Council for Children’s Rights is seeking an experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney to join its Children’s Defense Team.  This is a full-time position for an attorney who will primarily represent the expressed interests of children in delinquency matters in the Mecklenberg County Juvenile Court.  For the full job description and info about how to apply, please look here.