2017 Year in Review

Another year gone, some great milestones achieved, and the Office of the Juvenile Defender (OJD) would like to highlight a few of those accomplishments from 2017:

Legislation

This was a monumental year for juvenile justice legislation as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of In re Gault and the passage of Raise the Age in N.C.

Raise the Age: In regards to raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction, OJD met with advocates and stakeholders to develop strategies for bill passage and worked with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Legal Counsel to draft, edit, and respond to amendments to the legislation.  OJD responded to legislators and staff with questions about the legislation and we have developed a three-part plan to address the needs of defender services to absorb the increased number of cases.

Gault:  The Supreme Court’s decision in Gault granted due process rights to children, which essentially created the occupation of juvenile defenders, and due to the new legislation passed in our state, North Carolina will not be the last state to automatically treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.  OJD collaborated with the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) and AOC to commemorate the fifty years since the Gault decision.

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As part of our campaign to raise awareness about Gault, OJD worked with NJDC to create a webpage specifically for events in N.C. related to the celebration and to bring attention to N.C.’s commitment to fulfilling the promise of Gault.  On our own website and the UNC School of Government’s blog, in collaboration with LaToya Powell, OJD co-wrote a series of blogs on the legal impact of Gault on North Carolina law.  We also attempted to rally juvenile justice advocates to petition Google to create a Gault-inspired Doodle for May 15, the official anniversary of the decades-old decision, and encouraged other community leaders to solicit the media with op-eds and offer presentations of their own, such as the Council for Children’s Rights.  We also worked with the Governor’s Office to create a gubernatorial proclamation.  On the day of the anniversary, we launched our first Twitter Town Hall event with the hashtag #Gault50NC and we attended a gala in honor of the occasion hosted by NJDC in Washington, D.C.

With the assistance of AOC, we also created a video discussing the impact of Gault and the need for Raise the Age legislation in N.C.

Contracts & Trainings

Contracts:  There were no new contracts established in 2017, however with the passage of Raise the Age, OJD plans to 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, brainstorm, etc.

Trainings: This year, OJD was proud to have held several successful trainings in various districts including Districts 7, 19, 8, and 1.  We had the pleasure of collaborating with the N.C. Advocates for Justice, UNC School of Government, and others once again to bring together new and veteran juvenile defenders in different lectures and interactive training activities across the state.

Direct Representation

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.

Outreach

This year we’ve tried to bring new life to the OJD website, encouraging more guest blogs, getting our own domain, and exploring new avenues to engage the juvenile defender community through social media.  Since last year, OJD has seen the subscriptions on our blog more than double from the 190 we initially had prior to Marcus Thompson coming on board in our new communications and office manager position.  We have also had significant growth in our audience on social media, which has been very useful in raising awareness of what our office and the North Carolina juvenile defense community aspires to do and has accomplished.  With assistance from the media team at AOC, OJD has developed a podcast, which we hope to continue to produce in order to keep all stakeholders informed.  An OJD Facebook page has also been created in order to keep stakeholders engaged and facilitate conversation about current events related to juvenile defense around the country.

New Initiatives

With the implementation of Raise the Age underway, OJD has developed a three-part plan to address the needs of defenders to absorb the increased number of cases.  This includes (1) developing statewide and local conferences, trainings, and presentations to keep defenders informed, (2) proposing a system of dedicated defenders through contracting with local defenders, and (3) consulting with public defender offices and contractors to determine the impact of potential increase in caseload.  Our office has also created a page on the OJD website with resources specifically related to Raise the Age, including summaries of the legislation and a compilation of articles, and we will update this page as more materials become available.  Additionally, OJD has been appointed to or assisted committees in response to the new legislation including the Governor’s Crime Commission, AOC JWise Attorney Access workgroup, and the new Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee created by the new law.

OJD Week in Review: Oct. 16-20

This week we’ve got a few new resources for you, a panel discussion, and a declaration from the governor’s office we had to include.

Quick Reminder

Firstly, we’d like to remind everyone of the approaching deadlines for a couple of job opportunities we’ve previously mentioned.  Applications for the NJDC Gault Fellowship are due Monday, Oct. 30.  Also, applications for North Carolina Judicial Fellowship‘s two associate counsel positions are due by 5 p.m. today, and applications for the six (6) two-year fellowships starting August 2018 will close on Nov. 3.  Hurry and spread the word or apply if you are interested!

The National Juvenile Justice Network has also posted an opening for a 2018 Fall internship.  The full details for this unpaid internship can be found here.

And moving on to this week’s news…

On last Friday, N.C. Governor Roy Cooper declared Oct. 15-21 “Juvenile Justice Week” (among other things).  In his proclamation (which can be read here), Governor Cooper acknowledges the milestones achieved by the Juvenile Justice Section of the Division of Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice, including the decline of the juvenile crime rate and passing of Raise the Age.

AtlanticOn Tuesday, Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry joined Ricky Watson, Jr., co-director of the Youth Justice Project, and District Court Judge Louis Trosch, Jr., co-chair of Race Matters of Juvenile Justice and judge for the 26th judicial circuit, on a live panel with The Atlantic‘s Assistant Editor (now to promoted Managing Editor as of this post) Adrienne Green to discuss juvenile justice reform and racial disparities.  In the video, the panel touches on school-justice partnerships, acknowledging implicit biases, and expectations for Raise the Age.  You can view the video here.

From the On the Civil Side blog, Professor LaToya Powell offers some insights on capacity.  In the latest post, titled “Incapacity to Proceed and Juveniles“, Powell breaks down the requirements for a juvenile to be determined capable of proceeding.

The Sentencing Project has also released two new fact sheets, “Native Disparities in Youth Incarceration” and “Latino Disparities in Youth Incarceration“, which offer quick statistics on the disparities between juvenile placements of youth of these ethnic groups and their Caucasian peers.  These fact sheets can be paired with the “Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration” fact sheet released back in September.

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You should also check out the National Juvenile Justice Network’s latest newsletter when you find the time.  NJJN has several new articles, including one discussing Texas’ plans for juvenile justice reform, ways to participate in Youth Justice Action Month, and recognizing implicit bias, just to name a few.  The toolkit for changing harmful media narratives about youth of color that we mentioned last week can also be found in their newsletter.

That is all for this week, folks.  We hope that it has been a great Juvenile Justice Week for everyone.  If there is anything you would like to share about your experience during Youth Justice Action Month, please let the N.C. Juvenile Defender community know on Facebook or here on our blog!

Historic Celebration Honoring N.C. Supreme Court’s African-American Justices

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(From top, left to right) Justices Morgan, Timmons-Goodson, Beasley, Wynn, Frye, and Butterfield were honored on Aug. 31st (*Picture originally from NCAOC)

On Aug. 31st, the Historic Celebration Honoring the African-American Justices of the Supreme Court of North Carolina was held at the Law and Justice Building in Raleigh.  During this celebration the Honorable Henry E. Frye, James A. Wynn, Jr., G.K. Butterfield, Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Cheri Lynn Beasley, and Michael Rivers Morgan were recognized for their service.  Many people came out in support of the event, and rooms were also provided at the N.C. History Museum and the Court of Appeals, while the event was also live-streamed on Facebook.

Wanda Bryant, senior associate judge of the N.C. Court of Appeals, presided over the event, opening the ceremony by acknowledging each judge in the order of their service and encouraging the audience to join her in giving the six honorees a standing ovation.  Following Bryant’s introduction, Rev. Dr. Dumas A. Harshaw, Jr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Raleigh, gave the invocation before Chief Justice Mark Martin approached the podium to welcome everyone.  Martin acknowledged the current justices, the history of the N.C. Supreme Court, and spoke briefly about the service of each of the honorees individually.  During his speech, Martin also thanked Wynn for administering his oath to office and cheerfully welcomed the retired Frye back to the court.

Calvin Murphy, emergency judge of the N.C. superior court and a former N.C. business court judge and former president of the N.C. State Bar, gave the occasion.  Murphy gave a more detailed history of the role of African-Americans in the N.C. judicial system, pointing out that the six African-American justices had all been appointed over the past 34 years, and two of only seven women to serve on the N.C. Supreme Court were African-American.

Kaye Webb, retired general counsel of North Carolina Central University and a former president of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, recognized the guests and Ken Lewis, former law clerk to Chief Justice Frye, introduced the African American justices before speakers came to the front to give remarks.

Introducing former Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., District Judge Herbert Richardson was the first speak.  “If the public is to have equal access to justice, they must have equal access to the bench,” Richardson said in a powerful speech.  “You cannot find justice if you cannot find your people.”

When Hunt took the stage, he discussed how change is necessary to achieve greatness.  “When we don’t rock the boat, we stop moving forward,” Hunt said in the closing of his speech.  “Keep rocking the boat until N.C. is all that it could be, all that it would be, all that it should be.”

On behalf of the infirm former Governor Michael F. Easley, his son, Michael F. Easley, Jr., spoke after Hunt, echoing the need for representation of all people in the justice system.  “It is only by diversity that the court is held in the esteem that it is.” Easley said.  In his own closing, Easley borrowed a quote from Civil Rights champion Martin Luther King, Jr., which was paraphrased from Minister Theodore Parker’s 19th-century sermon, saying, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  He then thanked the honorees for bending the metaphorical arc.

Former Governor Beverly Eaves Perdue followed Easley, opening her speech by recounting her first embarrassing experience in front of judges to the audience’s amusement.  Perdue said that while she once thought that the fight for equality of race and sex, among other things, had been already won, the same issues persist today, but it is important that North Carolinians above all others maintain a spirit of optimism.

Governor Roy Cooper, who was unable to join the presentation in person, gave his speech via video presentation, thanking the justices for their service and for being an inspiration to others.

Following the governors’ speeches, Attorney General Joshua Stein, State Senator Daniel T. Blue, Jr., and Justices Butterfield, Timmons-Goodson, and Frye all took to the podium, echoing the importance of diversity, legacy, and positivity and the history of the N.C. Supreme Court.

In closing, Rev. Dr. Maurice A. Harden, pastor of Rush Metropolitan AME Zion Church in Raleigh, gave the benediction and all attendees were invited to a reception hosted at the governor’s office.

Governor Cooper Acknowledges Raise the Age at the Capitol

Today in the Old House Chamber of the Capitol, Governor Roy Cooper acknowledged the passing of the Raise the Age Bill and signed the Expungement Process Modifications Bill.  In a short but sweet ceremony, the governor thanked several representatives and others who worked to champion both bills and briefly spoke about extending second chances to adults and the importance of improving the juvenile justice system as well.

“North Carolina may be the last [state to raise the age], but we will not be the least,” Gov. Cooper said to the applause of the audience prior to signing the bills.

Please find a full video of the occasion on the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s Facebook page here.