This past year has been a very eventful and exciting year for the juvenile defense community. With N.C. now less than a year from the full implementation of the Raise the Age (RTA) legislation, which will raise the age of juvenile delinquency court jurisdiction, OJD has been working throughout 2018 to prepare attorneys around the state for the anticipated changes.
Contracts & Trainings
Trainings: OJD hosted multiple regional trainings around the state to discuss the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (also known as the RTA legislation) and the office’s plans to address it going forward. OJD also hosted various juvenile court basics trainings in different regions at the request of local attorneys and bar associations and will continue to do so upon request. OJD also presented to law students and collaborated with other organizations, such as the N.C. Advocates for Justice Juvenile Defense Section, to train attorneys on RTA.
Contracts: OJD established no new contracts this year, however there was a juvenile delinquency RFP issued and a few open contract positions filled through the year. As part of the response to RTA, OJD will evaluate current contracts and observe court in all districts to determine where new contracts will be needed once the law is fully implemented. Assistant Juvenile Defender Kim Howes has also met with contractors in different districts to address issues and strategize on their cases.
While there was no new legislation this year that OJD worked on, Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry continued to be active on the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (JJAC) and the Legal Revisions and Legislative Issues Subcommittee, assisting in the planning and adjustments before the full implementation of RTA. We also provide the most current information we can for frontline defenders and stakeholders pertaining to the changes to the law.
This year OJD has continued to grow in our online presence. We’ve continued to trend upward with the numbers on social media and we still encourage all attorneys doing juvenile defense work in N.C. to join our Facebook/Twitter page. On the OJD website, new content is still being added to the blog, and new resources are still being provided to prepare attorneys on the RTA page under the “Information for Defenders” tab. We’ve also had some great new interviews on the OJD podcast, including a feature on Dr. Anne Corbin’s book, Dilemma of Duties, which focuses exclusively on attorneys in the N.C. juvenile justice system, and a discussion on juvenile psychological development and evaluations with Dr. Cindy Cottle.
In 2018, the bulk of our outreach efforts have been dedicated to education and the celebration of the passage of RTA, and also establishing relationships with organizations that have interest in the new legislation. OJD has also met with N.C. Central University’s staff to strategize on how to utilize the technology available through their Virtual Justice Project to assist in outreach for 2019.
OJD continues to provide direct representation of juvenile clients. This has allowed our Office to observe and respond to trends in juvenile court as well as continue to have a presence in the courtroom. OJD has represented juveniles in cases transferred from other districts and been able to identify issues for appeal and base trainings on issues that have arisen in multiple cases in various districts such as proper amendments to charges on petitions and improper dispositional levels. Collaboration with defenders in other jurisdictions when we have juvenile clients in common has resulted in better outcomes for juveniles with petitions in multiple districts.
With the implementation of RTA underway, OJD has executed its three-part plan to address the needs of defenders to absorb the increased number of cases. This includes (1) developing virtual and in-person statewide and local conferences, trainings and presentations to keep defenders informed, (2) proposing a system of dedicated defenders through contracting with local defenders and consulting with public defender offices and contractors to determine the impact of potential increase in caseload, and (3) continuing to work on policy development as it pertains to RTA implementation. Our office continues to update the RTA page on the OJD website with resources specifically related to the legislation and our plans, including summaries and a compilation of articles, and we will continue to update this page as more materials become available.
Early in 2018, with the anticipated increase in the juvenile caseload once 16- and 17-year-olds enter the juvenile justice system as a result of RTA, OJD and the Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS) applied for a federal grant offered through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The plan was to use the grant to help fund efforts to give attorneys access to more specialized training and resources and also increase our capacity for data collection over the next few years. Fortunately, OJD was awarded the grant and has created the new Project Attorney position to assist in the planning and execution of virtual and in-person training statewide to better address juvenile defenders’ needs. IDS has also created a new Juvenile Contract Specialist position to assist with the caseload increase.