The Office of the Juvenile Defender (OJD) developed out of a study issued in October 2003 that explored the quality of representation in juvenile delinquency court in North Carolina. As a result, a recommendation of the Indigent Defense Services (IDS) Juvenile Committee was the creation of the Juvenile Defender of North Carolina position. The office opened in January 2005.
- Provide services and support to juvenile defense attorneys. In conjunction with the UNC School of Government, OJD organizes and presents numerous statewide, regional, and local trainings including introductory, intermediate, and advanced topics; we also worked with the UNC School of Government to develop a practical manual for juvenile defense counsel. The Manual includes an overview of statutory law, practice suggestions, and model forms and motions. We also maintain a clearing house of juvenile delinquency related material. OJD assists legal counsel by providing information to individual questions or ongoing consultation, for cases pending in delinquency or adult trial court, or on appeal. Additionally, a Juvenile Defender listserv has been created to allow juvenile defense counsel to discuss case problems, systemic issues and other relevant topics quickly and efficiently.
- Evaluate the current system of representation. Since our inception, OJD has visited three quarters of NC counties to observe court, speak with court officials, and make recommendations to IDS as needed to improve the quality of juvenile defense representation. In an effort to strengthen juvenile defense representation, our office recommends, as needed, entering into contracts with local counsel to represent juveniles. Currently there are contracts in eighteen counties in the state. OJD has also taken the lead in developing policy related to qualification standards for practicing in juvenile delinquency court and performance guidelines for juvenile defense representation. OJD has also explored other dimensions of representation such as education rights and post-dispositional advocacy.
- Elevate the stature of juvenile delinquency representation. In an effort to bring attention to the need for quality defense counsel in delinquency proceedings, OJD regularly presents our initiatives to various justice groups and adds a defense counsel voice to several boards and committees. OJD also works to inspire aspiring attorneys to consider juvenile defense representation as a career by guest lecturing at several of the law schools and hosting legal interns and externs. The OJD is working closely with the North Carolina State Bar to make Juvenile Delinquency Law a sub-specialty of the Criminal Law Specialty. The sub-specialty exam is expected to be offered in the fall of 2012.
- Work with juvenile justice advocates to promote positive change in the juvenile justice system. OJD has partnered with numerous advocacy groups including but not limited to the NC Bar Association Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section, the Governor’s Crime Commission, and Action for Children to address critical juvenile justice issues such as Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) and raising the age of jurisdiction in delinquency court.
OJD hopes to continue its mission by pursuing several new initiatives. Some projects include: continuing to explore representation of those juveniles committed to youth development centers, improving legal representation of special populations of youth, and researching issues related to juvenile appellate cases.
Office of the Juvenile Defender
P.O. Box 2448 ▪ Raleigh, NC 27602
Phone: (919) 890-1650 ▪ Fax: (919) 890-1922 ▪ http://www.ncids.org
Eric.J.Zogry@nccourts.org ▪ Shaunis.L.Mercer@ncourts.org ▪ Sybil.R.Bowick@nccourts.org