OJD Week in Review: Jan. 15-19

Good afternoon N.C. Juvenile Defender Community.  It has been a rather eventful week, depending on where you are, and we hope everyone is still warm and safe.  This week we would like recap a few important things.

ICYMI

Earlier in the week, Assistant Appellate Defender David Andrews offered a great breakdown of the updated North Carolina Juvenile Defender manual, the first new edition since 2008.  The new manual offers defenders instruction based on changes to the Juvenile Code over the past decade, including sections on procedures for suppression motions and Raise the Age legislation, along with expanded sections on other topics covered in the original.  Andrews co-wrote the new manual along with John Rubin, Albert Coates Professor of Public Law and Government at the UNC School of Government.  Please take a moment to read David’s article here and access the new manual on the School of Government’s website.

RTA

Also, earlier in the week our office released our “2017 Year in Review”, highlighting some of the juvenile defense community’s biggest achievements in the past year, including the passage of Raise the Age and commemorating the 50th anniversary of In re Gault.  In our post we also provide our plan going forward to evaluate contracts and provide training in response to the increase in juvenile jurisdiction.  To read our brief on some of our successes and plans from 2017, please check out our article here.

Quick Reminders

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will be supporting National Drug and Alcohol Facts week, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  From Jan. 22-28, these organizations will be supporting community events nationwide and beyond that bring people together, from adolescents to experts, to discuss alcohol and drug abuse.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse will be providing free booklets about how to deal with drug abuse, in addition to other educational resources.

OJJDP will also be accepting nominations for their 2018 National Missing Children’s Day awards until Jan. 24.  They are seeking nominees for their Missing Children’s Citizen Award and Missing Children’s Child Protection Award.  These awards are meant to recognize private individuals who helped to recover a missing/abducted child and professionals, such as law enforcement officers and child protective service agents, who have worked to protect children from abuse and victimization.  For further details and to submit your nominations, please check here.

That will be all for now, but warmer weather, better days, and more news are ahead!  Don’t forget to check back early and often and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

 

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.

GAULTat50_TwitterTownHall_1

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.

Save the Date: NCCRED Syposium

The North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NC-CRED), the Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy, and the Wake Forest School of Law Criminal Justice Program, present “The New Law and Order: Working Towards Equitable and Community-Centered Policing in North Carolina” on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1312. The event is free and open to the public.  Approval for up to four hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit from the North Carolina Bar Association is pending approval.  The event is also scheduled to be a live webcast.

NC-CRED is a diverse group of criminal justice stakeholders—judges, police chiefs, district attorneys, public defenders, scholars and community advocates, who work collaboratively to identify, document and reduce racial disparities in North Carolina’s criminal justice system.  The symposium will bring together law enforcement, practicing attorneys, scholars and community advocates to discuss equitable reforms to address racial disparities in policing in North Carolina.

Wake U

NCCRED Pic

New L&O

From a Non-Lawyer Perspective: 2017 Juvenile Defender Conference Review by Marcus Thompson

On Friday, Aug. 11, juvenile defenders from across N.C. united at the U.N.C. School of Government for the 2017 Juvenile Defender Conference — and I had the honor of being among the 50+ attendees!  Only approaching my first full year as a part of the Juvenile Defender family, I was pretty excited to be able to attend this annual conference and observe juvenile defenders from various districts interact and share ideas and experiences from their time in juvenile court.  In my short time with the Office of the Juvenile Defender, I have  had the opportunity to learn about case law, the “lawyer lingo”, and other things, but this training was a great experience to not only refresh my memory of materials I’ve encountered before, but to also gain further insight into the juvenile justice system.

Program Attorney Austine Long started the event, welcoming everyone and encouraging defenders to offer suggestions for future training courses before introducing Martin Moore, assistant public defender of Buncombe County.

Moore discussed detention hearings, going over the types and culture of detention, secure custody and strategies for preparing for hearings.  Moore acknowledged that some areas of the state do not always follow their own guidelines for detention hearings.  “No one is in a better position to help the juvenile than themselves,” Moore said, emphasizing to attendees the importance of listening to the client and knowing as much as possible about their history, mental health state, and relationships when preparing for hearings.  When he posed a question to the audience about juveniles being placed in adult facilities for pre-adjudication secure custody (which violates G.S. 7B-1905), some defenders stated that this is often a result of juveniles having lied about their age, which initially surprised me.  I would have assumed in some cases it may have been the error of the police.  One participant also stated that juvenile defenders should ensure that juveniles’ info is redacted if they are placed in an adult facility for any reason.  On the topic of shackling during secure custody hearings, Moore also stated that it was “generally something we should argue against” and others concurred, pointing out the most effective argument with judges was that shackling a child would require more paperwork.  Towards the end of his presentation, Moore gave attendees a couple of hypothetical scenarios and allowed them to role play to demonstrate how they argue on behalf of a client in a detention hearing.

Following Moore, Mary Stansell, assistant public defender of Wake County, and Assistant Juvenile Defender Kim Howes presented on motions to suppress.  The pair addressed In re Gault, what qualifies as custodial interrogation, children’s understanding of their rights, and violations of 4th amendment rights.  Stansell and Howes stressed that a statement can’t be used against a child in custody unless a parent is there, but children believe that the “right to remain silent” means “until a cop asks a question”, most likely due to being naturally submissive to adults and intimidated by authority figures.  The cases of Saldierna and J.D.B. were also addressed while discussing juveniles’ voluntary waiver of rights.  Identification of juveniles in court and search and seizure were also brought up before attendees were broken out into groups to work on a case study.

After lunch was provided, Terri Johnson, an attorney from Statesville, took the lead to discuss capacity, covering statutes, cases, and how to handle evaluations and issues.  Johnson emphasized looking for indicators of capacity such as age, nature and location of the offense, language barriers and a history of social, mental, or physical health issues.  She also talked about finding experts to evaluate a client’s capacity to proceed in court and common arguments made by assistant district attorneys and juvenile court counselors.  One common argument was that juveniles were manipulative and would lie simply to avoid getting into trouble.  Johnson also said that sometimes judges will commit juveniles due to lack of options or because they believe that just putting juveniles on probation will get them the mental health treatment that they need.  Having no interactions with the legal system in my teenage years beyond a couple of traffic violations, it was kind of disheartening to hear that this was the way people, especially kids with various problems, were perceived and treated in the courts.

Once Johnson finished her segment, LaToya Powell, assistant professor of public law and government for the U.N.C. School of Government, arrived to discuss updates to juvenile law in the past year.   I was very familiar with all of the cases that Powell discussed, having read her opinions and writing case summaries for our office, but the review of these cases was welcomed.  Powell succinctly summarized many of the most impactful cases, including Saldierna, T.K.D.E.P.  and the recent Raise the Age legislation.  While addressing Saldierna, Powell stated that a juvenile cannot waive the right to have a parent or attorney present during questioning due to special protections provided under General Statute 7B-2101.  After reviewing the whole series of decisions from SaldiernaPowell also noted that as of Aug. 3rd, the State had filed a motion for temporary stay on the case.  Once she summarized some of the other recent appellate court decisions, Powell went on to discuss the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, pointing out the benefits to everyone involved in the juvenile justice system, but also addressing some potential issues with the new laws, such as conflicting terms in the new gang suppression section with current criminal gang suppression rules.

Finally, James Drennan, adjunct and former Albert Coates professor for the U.N.C. School of Government, took the podium to lead the ethics portion of the training.  This part of the training was more like the psychology/philosophy class I wish I had during my college years and was applicable not only to juvenile defense, but all professions.  Drennan discussed implicit biases, which he said exists “in all of us.  No one is immune to it.”

“There is an elemental, primal need to feel like you are being treated fairly,” Drennan said after showing a video of two monkeys being rewarded, one with grapes and the other with cucumbers (resulting in its frustration) for performing the same task.  He shared statistics and reports that showed fairness is what is most desired in our court system by people, but more people from various backgrounds perceive the justice system as unfair to minorities.

Drennan also engaged attendees in several exercises to test their perception, demonstrating our fast-thinking and slow-thinking processes and how our intuitive feelings and programming from a young age affects our judgment.   Drennan spoke about how his own southern upbringing taught him to accept racial disparities as a norm and certain behaviors were maligned by the society he grew up in, and despite his life experiences, these ideas instilled in him from his youth still linger, unable to be unlearned.  He also said that controlling our fast-thinking processes when interacting with new groups or individuals and observing the patterns in our decision-making processes are important to help us to avoid our own prejudices.

Every presentation was engaging and surprisingly easy to follow, even for someone like myself, without a background in law.  While I’ve only observed a few juvenile court cases, it was good to know how other defenders prepare to present their juveniles’ cases and what must be considered prior to going in front of the judge.  It also provided clarity for me about the challenges from all sides that juvenile defenders must deal with inside and outside the courtroom.  It was also great being able to put more faces to the names I’ve seen in the past few months.  After this first year, I look forward to the 2018 Juvenile Defender Conference, and I hope to hear from and see more of the front line defenders.

If you missed the conference or would just like to review the presentations, you can find a copy of the course materials with additional references here.

Raise the Age Page is Now Live!

Now that the efforts to change the laws regarding juvenile jurisdiction have finally succeeded, we have created a new page on our website specifically for Raise the Age!  There is still plenty to be done, and our office is now compiling information about the new law all in one place for your convenience.  The Raise the Age page contains summaries of Senate Bill 257, media content created by our office, and links to other resources, including articles from Tamar Birckhead, Professor LaToya Powell, and Campaign for Youth Justice.  The new page can be found under the “Information for Defenders” tab.  New sections will be added as each part of the new law is implemented and our office develops new plans and training to assist juvenile defenders, so check back often!

RTA

Job Opportunity: Contracts Administrator for Indigent Defense Services

 

The Office of Indigent Defense Services seeks a qualified Contracts Administrator to develop, negotiate, enter into, and administer contracts with individual attorneys, law firms, and non-profits for indigent representation throughout North Carolina, primarily through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.  (Please find the basic job description and requirements below, or for more info and to apply, please visit here.)

Responsibilities include but are not limited to the following:

  • Assist in evaluation of proposals received in response to RFPs, including coordinating the selection committee(s).
  • For small contracts not subject to the RFP requirements, work with Regional Defenders, local bars, and judicial officials to identify qualified attorneys and to develop and enter into contracts on behalf of IDS.
  • Establish quality and cost measures to evaluate contracts.
  • Monitor case reporting systems; work with IDS’ Information Technology Director to maintain and enhance an on-line contractor case reporting system; and collect and analyze data from contractors.
  • Develop appropriate policies governing contractors and staff relevant committees of the Indigent Defense Services (IDS) Commission that deal with issues relevant to contracts.
  • Monitor payments to contractors and assist with resolving problems or disputes with contractors; and work with Regional Defenders to monitor attorney performance through data analysis and site visits.
  • Assist with developing lists of qualified attorneys for appointment on a case-by-case basis and supervising, evaluating, and monitoring indigent representation around the state.
  • Draft and enter contracts related to general IDS office operations as needed; and perform other duties as assigned.

The successful candidate will be flexible and able to work well with a multi-disciplinary team.

This position reports to the IDS Assistant Director and requires occasional travel across the state.
Knowledge, Skills and Abilities / Competencies

Knowledge of:  the NC judicial system; criminal sentencing; methods of providing legal services to indigent defendants and respondents; and contracts and contract administration.

Skills in:  contract management; developing service delivery systems and identifying the infrastructure to support those systems; both quantitative and qualitative data analysis; database development and long-term management; on-line survey programs such as SurveyMonkey; and Microsoft Excel.

Ability to:  effectively communicate in oral and written form; establish and maintain excellent interpersonal relationships; learn new programs and systems; work well with a multi-disciplinary team; and effectively work with groups of diverse interests.

Minimum Education and Experience Requirements

Management prefers candidates with a Juris Doctorate from an ABA accredited law school with a license to practice law in North Carolina or Master’s Degree in Public Administration or related field and three (3) years of relevant experience. Management will consider applicants with a four-year college/university degree and five (5) years of relevant experience.  Relevant experience includes:

  • managing contracts for a public defense, criminal justice, or public sector organization; or oversight of management systems for a public defense, criminal justice, or public sector organization.
  • experience in the defense of criminal or other cases under IDS’ oversight is a plus.

Describe in your cover letter a new software system or application you learned in the past year and how you went about learning the new software system or application.  Your cover letter should also describe any experience you have with the design, use, or evaluation of work-related databases or other software tools.

Attach cover letter,  résumé, and the names and contact information for two (2) professional references.
 

 

Time to Apply for the Juvenile Delinquency Specialization Exams

Legal Specialization │ Apply now through June 30th for board certification in juvenile delinquency law.  The 2017 exam is scheduled in both Charlotte and Raleigh If you are a prosecutor, public defender or public service lawyer, you may qualify for an NC LEAF scholarship to cover the specialization application fee. Contact Denise Mullen at 919-719-9255 or dmullen@ncbar.gov for more information or access an application HERE.

You can also obtain more information about the standards for specialization and the program itself, please check here.

 

House Holds Hearing for House Bill 280, Governor Gives Proclamation for Gault

The anniversary is nigh, people, and Gov. Roy Cooper issued his proclamation last week commending May 15th as the 50th anniversary of In re Gault.  This proclamation will soon be added to the N.C. Gault page along with other content.  Check back over the next few days and be prepared to join us May 15 at noon for our Twitter Town Hall, sharing your thoughts and questions on Gault using #Gault50NC!

Gault50NC Twitter Town Hall

In other news, on Wednesday, the N.C. House of Representatives Committee held its first hearing for House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act.  The Committee voted unanimously in favor of passing the bill on to the next phase.

celebrate

“Why would one put most juvenile offenders in the adult justice system when only a small percent need to be treated as adults?” asked Rep. Chuck McGrady, one of the primary representatives in support of the bill, acknowledging that only 3 percent of crimes committed by juveniles in N.C. are considered violent.  McGrady also stated that by raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction there would be much lower rates of recidivism for juveniles and lower costs for the state as a whole.

Rep. Allen McNeill suggested an amendment to the bill, citing sections of it that addressed gang activity among youth.  McNeill conveyed his concerns about youth continuing their involvement in gangs after release from juvenile detention, referring to his own experiences in law enforcement.  One other representative raised concerns for the need to include F-I felonies in the amendment as well, since current gang recruitment acts would fall into those categories  (the current bill only automatically sends juveniles to the criminal justice system for class A-E).  No amendments have been made yet.

Several other supporters of H280 stood to voice their thoughts on the need to raise the age including N.C. Child’s Adam Sotak, Youth Justice Project’s Ricky Watson, Jr., and Commissioner Brenda A. Howerton.  Howerton, who is president-elect of the North Carolina Association of Counties, pointed out the success of diversion programs for youth specifically in Durham County while emphasizing her support for raising the age.  One speaker likened a criminal record for a juvenile to a “scarlet letter” that prevents them from obtaining significant opportunities as adults, even for nonviolent offenses.  It was also stated by one prosecutor that the role of a prosecutor is not to just gain convictions, but to actually keep communities safe and uphold the constitutionality of the law.

RTA

“If we [raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction] the sky will not fall and we will see the benefits,” said Gwendolyn Chunn, former president of the American Correctional Association and former executive director of the Juvenile Justice Institute.  Chunn related the moment to a religious experience and she stated that N.C. is not a hotbed for crime, but a very progressive state that needed this change.

Karen Simon, director of Inmate Programs at the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, said that youth in the adult system are at risk of being put into solitary confinement, which is shown to have detrimental effects on the mental health of prisoners, especially juveniles.  “Think not of a faceless group of 16- and 17-year-olds,” Simon said, “but think of your own kids.”

Rep. Marcia Morey, a former chief district court judge, said that not all felonies can be treated the same, and reduction in cases and adjustments are possible.

“We need to give every young person the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Rep. Bob Steinburg.  “…with the current laws, we might as well hand them their death sentences.”

The bill was introduced to the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning, and while there was some opposition to it this time, it was passed in the Committee with a strong majority and is expected to be heard on the House floor later in May.  If it continues to pass into law, H280 will take full effect in 2019.

 

A Review of Saldierna by Guest Blogger Martin Moore

Martin Moore

Most recently, State v. Saldierna, 794 S.E.2d 474 (2016) has brought into question my understanding of how the North Carolina appellate courts view juveniles.  In the midst of a strong push by many judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys for legislators to raise the age of adulthood for criminal purposes, the North Carolina Supreme Court essentially places the onus upon juveniles to affirmatively invoke their statutory rights.

 If you haven’t read LaToya Powell’s blog post on Saldierna, it offers a thorough analysis of the facts, ruling, and dissent and can be found here.  I will only offer the highlights as necessary to address some questions about what impact Saldierna may have going forward.

Saldierna Review

Facts

In Saldierna, a 16-year-old juvenile was arrested for his alleged role in burglaries of homes in Mecklenburg County.  During a custodial interview, the juvenile asked to call his mother, specifically asking “Um, can I call my mom?”  The interrogating officer allowed him to place the call, but the juvenile was unable to reach his mother and subsequently returned to the booking area where the interview resumed and the juvenile confessed.

The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the statements after the call to his mother and determined that the interview was conducted in a fashion consistent with the requirements of N.C.G.S. § 7B-2101 and was not made in violation of his Miranda rights.

 

Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals opined that while § 7B-2101(a)(1), (2), and (4) are essentially codified, Constitution-based Miranda rights and must be invoked clearly and unequivocally, § 7B-2101(a)(3) is a “purely statutory right granted by our State’s General Assembly…” Id. at    , 775 S.E.2d at 332. The appellate court noted that their “review of the provisions of section 7B-2101 reveals an understanding by our General Assembly that the special right guaranteed by subsection (a)(3) is different from those rights discussed in Miranda and, in turn, reflects the legislature’s intent that law enforcement officers proceed with great caution in determining whether a juvenile is attempting to invoke this right.” Id. at    , 775 S.E.2d at 332.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order denying the motion to suppress and vacated the judgments entered on the defendant’s guilty pleas, remanding the case back to the trial court. State v. Saldierna,     N.C. App.    ,    , 775 S.E.2d 326, 334 (2015).

 

North Carolina Supreme Court

The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals.  The Court held that a juvenile’s right to have a parent present during a custodial interrogation is analogous to the constitutional right to counsel and the same standard must be applied to such situations.  Saldierna, __ N.C. at __, 794 S.E.2d at 478.

Following the guidance of Davis v. United States, the Court ultimately determined that the Saldierna did not clearly and unequivocally invoke his right to a parent’s being present and thus his statutory rights, N.C.G.S. §7B-2101(a)(3) were not violated under  were not violated:

“Although defendant asked to call his mother, he never gave any indication that he wanted to have her present for his interrogation, nor did he condition his interview on first speaking with her.  Instead, defendant simply asked to call her…As the trial court pointed out, defendant’s statement was at best an ambiguous invocation of his right to have his mother present.  As in Davis, without an unambiguous, unequivocal invocation of defendant’s right under N.C.G.S. §7B-2101(a)(3), law enforcement officers had no duty to ask clarifying questions or to cease questioning.”

Id. at 479.

This case appears to leave juvenile defenders in an increasingly difficult position.  The varying levels of sophistication and maturity alone have placed a significant burden on young men and women as well as their attorneys in navigating a very complex set of rules.

I imagine most juvenile defenders have at least one story of a young client who struggled, despite their best efforts, to fully understand even the plea transcript used in juvenile court.  With little surprise, a juvenile in a high-stress, custodial interrogation with a law enforcement officer may find themselves in similar difficult straits attempting to understand and invoke their rights under § 7B-2101(a).

While the facts of Saldierna alone can leave one with a sour taste in their mouth, what I envision as most troubling is the tone the Supreme Court sets with this case.  The Court appears to have placed the burden upon juveniles to not only to know and understand their rights, but to unequivocally, unambiguously assert them.  The rather adult responsibility of being a fully informed, civically astute citizen being placed upon the juvenile appears to run counter to the very idea underlying a fairly distinct court operating for the benefit of those same juveniles.

So what does this mean for cases going forward?

Example/Hypothetical:

Ignoring for a moment the differences between jurisdictions and varying procedure among the counties, entertain the following hypothetical:

Suppose four siblings (A, B, C, and D) are in the custody of the Department of Social Services while the Department looks deeper into abuse and neglect in the household.  Social Worker Jane is assigned to investigate the family, looking specifically into sexual abuse of Sibling A, C, and D by sibling B.

After a brief investigation, there is an allegation that A, B, C, and D may have all been engaged in underage, incestuous sex acts and drug use, without complete clarity on who is the initiating party/catalyst of the illicit activities.  The juveniles’ father, previously primary custodian and caretaker, recently had his parental rights terminated.

Juvenile B finds herself in a custodial interrogation with local law enforcement.  The officers are polite and respectful, advising Juvenile B of all relevant rights and call Social Worker Jane to meet them at the station.  Juvenile B asks “can you call my daddy?”  The officers oblige and call her father.  The officers then wait until Social Worker Jane walks into the interrogation room and begin their questioning.  About 15 minutes into the interrogation, her father arrives and sits in the interview room with B, the officers, and the social worker.  B then makes several incriminating statements with father’s nudging approval, hoping that cooperation will reunite the family quickly.

Instead Juvenile B is charged with several sex and drug crimes and now seeks the advice of counsel.

Has B invoked her statutory right?  Did she properly request a parent’s presence?  Did she have a “parent” present?

Prior to Saldierna, I believe the answers would be more clear: Yes, she invoked her statutory right; her request for parental presence was sufficient; and in effect, Juvenile B had no true parental representation. My contention would be that Social Worker Jane was not serving in any parental, custodial, or guardian-ad-litem capacity and certainly not even acting in the best interest of Juvenile B.  She was (and is) assigned to investigate wrongdoings that may have befallen Sibling A, C, and D, leaving her ill-positioned to strongly argue that she could fairly be considered a “parent” examining the facts for 7B-2101 purposes.

As in Saldierna, B made a request, ambiguous or otherwise, that I submit the officers should either heed (and arrange for her father to be present at the interrogation) or, at minimum, ask questions to clarify.  The law affirmatively provides this protection to specifically and solely to juveniles.

While my exposure to the civil/family court side of this is limited, I imagine there are some questions that would need to be answered as to the father.  I would submit biological father would be problematic if for no reason other than his lack of custody of his own children.  I have yet to find a case on point that would indicate that such a father would be sufficient for the purposes of being considered a parent for custodial interrogation purposes.

Post-Saldierna, I am not certain the North Carolina Supreme Court would agree.  The Court’s apparent call for a clear and unambiguous request to have his mother present makes it difficult to expect that questions regarding the adequacy of a juvenile’s parental figure would carry much weight.  Does Juvenile B have the responsibility of clarifying her father’s current parental rights and whose custody she is actually in?  Does Juvenile B have to affirmatively request from the court a DSS representative or guardian to serve as a custodian of their specific best interest?  Even asking these questions helps me realize we have shifted into far too sophisticated a standard to assume the juvenile is receiving any semblance of due process protections.

That said, we need not shift too far into the theoretical to glean what protections the legislature intended for juveniles to have; § 7B-2101(c) clearly states: “If the juvenile indicates in any manner and at any stage of questioning pursuant to this section that the juvenile does not wish to be questioned further, the officer shall cease questioning.”  It would seem that the legislature intended to be overly deferential, via the “in any manner” language, to the line of thinking that acknowledges juveniles should not be held to any specific language in invoking their constitutional and statutory rights.

Advising Juveniles

“I want my mommy and my lawyer.”

While reflecting on how to best advise juveniles, the most complete and honest answer: “it depends.”  For practical purposes, I offer the following:

  1. Be Proactive in Advising

We can debate and discuss recidivism and WHY juveniles may find themselves seeking counsel, but the reality for many of us is that we have repeat clients.  Counseling, mentoring, and advising can and should be forward looking, particularly for the client (or two) that may pick up subsequent charges after we are appointed.  Take the opportunity to walk them through your local law enforcement’s juvenile rights advisement form (7B-2101) and help them understand, in plain language, that they have a voice and are entitled to help.

  1. Discovery, Discovery, Discovery

It seems trite and rather obvious to suggest that the more information you have, the better off you’ll be, but it’s true.  Thorough investigation and interviews are often the only way to obtain the facts needed to advocate on behalf of your client.  DSS records (including social worker reports/notes on parents, juvenile client, and siblings), DNA results, officer statements and notes provide invaluable information and potential mitigation for even the worst of cases.

Of course, there is no substitute for experience and open communication.  Reaching out to colleagues, who practice in both adult and juvenile court, willing to share their experiences may yield insight about what information would be helpful or could be missing.  Particularly when dealing with medical records, for example Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) evaluations/reports, experienced colleagues can be the best resource for help interpreting these documents and providing referrals to experts.

  1. Develop/Reassess Relationship with DSS Social Workers and DSS Attorneys

I admit, on first glance, this may seem like I asked you to put your hand on a hot stove.  That said, I have found, particularly in sex offense cases, the Department of Social Services are an invaluable resource.  Because many of the sex cases I have worked on often involve either a history of abuse of the juvenile or wrongdoing by another as well, DSS’ interest may align with your client’s.  At the very least, you can chat about the Ritchie motion you plan on filing.

  1. Guardians ad Litem

A guardian can go a long way in helping both you and your client navigate the legal and non-legal challenges.  In our jurisdiction, several of our guardians are attorneys who take (or took) juvenile clients and often continue to work in family (non-criminal) court on DSS and TPR cases.  In two recent cases, the guardian I worked with is a former public defender that was able to connect with my client and form a bond that led to some very helpful information that aided us in securing a reduced charge.

  1. Make the Constitutional Arguments

I believe Saldierna is in part a reflection of the lack of case law focusing on the unique nature of juvenile court.  I choose to believe that the North Carolina Supreme Court has lacked sufficient opportunities to review the reality that juveniles very rarely appear to appreciate that they can, or now, have to, advocate for themselves even when interacting with authority figures they may have been blindly taught to obey without question.

Policy can quickly change, but it’s our responsibility to put the issues before the Court of Appeals and NC Supreme Court.  The Court of Appeals opinion and Justice Beasley’s dissent both included strong, helpful language and I would relish seeing more of that reasoning make its way into COA and Supreme Court decisions, or at the very least, dissents.

Martin Moore is an Assistant Public Defender in Asheville, North Carolina.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Moore went on to obtain his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina School of Law.  In his free time, he enjoys music and volunteers with a local non-profit helping underprivileged youth gain access to education.  You can connect with him via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/martin-moore-8792814b, or contact him by email or his website at Martin@MartinEkimMoore.com or www.martinekimmoore.com.

 

 

NCCALJ Presents Final Report to the Chief Justice

On March 15th, the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ) released its final report to Chief Justice Mark Martin during a ceremony at the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Chieft Justice Receives Final Report

The NCCALJ was convened by Chief Justice Martin in September 2015, tasked with reviewing the N.C. Judicial System and making recommendations for improving the administration of justice.  The sixty-five members of the Commission were divided into five committees, with each committee presenting its own final assessment in one of five areas after conducting thorough research, consulting with experts, and engaging in collaborative discussions, as well as gathering input from the public.

This report includes the recommendation to raise the juvenile age to 18 for all crimes except violent felonies and traffic offenses.  You can review our previous summary of this recommendation for the juvenile reinvestment plan on our blog, or you can also view the Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee’s final report here.

In addition to the recommendation to raise the juvenile age, the Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee’s report includes recommendations for improving indigent defense services, pretrial justice and criminal case management.  The other committees cover Legal Professionalism, Public Trust and Confidence, Technology and Civil Justice.

“The Commission’s recommendations create a framework for dramatic, systemic improvement in the administration of justice in North Carolina,” said Chief Justice Martin.  “The work of this blue-ribbon Commission will help ensure that North Carolina’s Judicial Branch meets the needs and expectations that the people of North Carolina have for fair, modern and impartial courts.”

The N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, along with other components of the Judicial Branch, will implement the Commission’s recommendations.

For more information, you can find the final report and the appendices here.  For inquiries from the media, please contact Sharon Gladwell at sharon.e.gladwell@nccourts.org or 919-890-1394.