OJD Week in Review: September 23-27

Happy Friday Defenders! If only we could look as relaxed as this baby right? As we get close to the start date of Raise the Age, OJD is working hard to provide defenders with tangible, useful information to aid your juveniles and their case. Be on the lookout for just HOW OJD has you covered.

JOB OPPORTUNITY!

The Office of Indigent Services (IDS) is seeking a Legal Associate, direct reporting to the Deputy Director. Responsibilites include:

  • Review correspondence from clients and draft responses under direction of legal staff.
  • Assist office manager and Deputy Director in revising record retention policy and implementing digital record retention policy.
  • Manage IDS website content in coordination with Deputy Director, state defenders, fiscal staff, and IT director.

For a full description and to apply, visit here.

OJD OPPORTUNITY!

Tip of the Week:

Before You Plea

Talk 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 NC or other states) and others.  Always consider the long-term consequences of what may first appear to be a short-term decision.

Spotlight Blog Post!

The School of Government released a blog written by, Jacquelyn Greene, regarding Raise the Age and additional changes to 7B. Yet another resource to guide you in the changes coming December 1, 2019. You can read her blog post here.

TRAINING!

This week, Eric traveled to Craven County and spoke with stakeholders and defenders regarding Raise the Age and Juvenile Justice Basics. Take a look at some of the photos!

Yesterday, Eric also hosted a Webinar regarding Juvenile Expunction.

What a week!

HAVE A SAFE WEEKEND!

“Presumption of Ignorance” by Guest Blogger Tonza Ruffin Buffaloe

Today we are doing a different kind guest blog, turning attention to Tonza Ruffin Buffaloe’s blog, southernmomjd. In one of her latest posts she gives a narrative of a personal experience she had in court. Buffaloe gives an introspective account of this moment in her life as not only a defense attorney, but also as a Black female. She points out the existence of racial disparities among lawyers and other court actors as well as their clients.

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Stunned at the depth of unprofessionalism, I sat there and listened as questions about my personal life were raised in the name of addressing any potential conflicts that I had with existing clients.  Looking at the court reporter summoned to this meeting, I felt my emotion leave my body as I geared up to play the game once again.  Unfortunately this game had become all too common for me as I spent the past 18 years trying to strike the balance between being a zealous advocate and stomaching the gross disrespect wielded upon me as a criminal defense attorney.  It seemed, in our system of justice, my decision to defend the voiceless meant I was involuntarily inducted into a club that was shunned and ridiculed on a regular basis.

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As I sat there I could not help but wonder what this “witch hunt” was really about.  And, quite frankly, if…

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OJD Spotlight: Q&A with Burcu Hensley

Today, we would like to turn our OJD Spotlight on Burcu Hensley, a four-year career attorney and one of the newest contractors in the N.C. juvenile defender family.  Burcu is a graduate of N.C. State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University.  She possesses a strong desire to help anyone in need, and she enjoys photography and the great outdoors.

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What inspired you to become an attorney? And what drove you to become a juvenile defender?

Before attending law school, I worked in preschools teaching and playing with kids. Toward the end of that chapter in my life, I began working with children with special needs and quickly realized there was a great need for advocacy for this group of people. That’s when I decided to go to law school and do what I could to make a difference in the lives of these children. Of course, when I moved here to Western North Carolina, job opportunities were scarce, so I decided to stay solo, practicing criminal defense as it seemed to be an area with the greatest amount of work. When the opportunity to work as a juvenile defender presented itself, I was happy to jump on board because I knew this would allow me to work with the children and young population that inspire me so much to be an advocate in a field where I have already familiarized myself with the rules, procedures, and court system.

What is your greatest motivation in your work?

The human element. I love to work with people, whether adults or children, and take on multiple roles, including advocate and counselor. I find it very rewarding to be able to help someone through my work, whether it’s as simple as relieving their anxiety by explaining what to expect during a court session or as dramatic as a verdict of not guilty.

What personal skill do you possess that makes you better in your professional life?

I make it a point to practice being empathetic. I think it is extremely important to be able to see things from the client’s perspective so that I can strive for the outcome the client desires. It’s also a lot easier to answer questions when I can understand why the question was asked in the first place. We work in a service industry and an ability to understand what the client wants is a skill that allows us to do our jobs more completely.

What has been one of the most challenging parts of your job/what has been one of the most challenging cases you’ve had in your career so far?

Since day one, I have always found the hardest part of my job to be “delivering the bad news” to a client. While being empathetic (see above!) is helpful in most aspects of this career, it can also make telling a client something they don’t want to hear that much more difficult.

If you could do any other job, what would it be and why?

I truly love what I do, so this question stumped me a bit. But then a burst of cold air came through the office and I realized that maybe I would like to try my hand at being a bartender, preferably at an exotic beach resort with palm trees and white sand beaches. Margaritas and good stories sounds like a fun job description, and I wouldn’t mind learning a little bottle-spinning trick or two.

Just for fun, do you have any secret talents?

Well it wouldn’t be a secret if I told you, would it? However, if I could have one super power, I would want to be invisible, on command of course.

Is there any advice you would pass on to future juvenile defenders?

I still consider myself to be pretty new to the world of law in general, and most certainly in the world of juvenile defense, but I think one thing that any attorney can do, whether fresh out of law school or well-seasoned, and whether for juvenile defense or otherwise, is to ask questions. Ask questions of colleagues, ask questions of clients, ask questions of clerks, judges, court counselors, just ask questions! Ours is a profession where the more information we have, the better (well, usually), and just asking questions is one of the best ways to gather information. It builds relationships with people, it provides for a more thorough understanding of the problems and tasks at hand, and often even identifies problems or complications we didn’t know existed before so that we can address them before it’s too late.

For a brief background and other info, please see my website attorney profile: http://hensley-law-firm.com/profile/