Juvenile defense counsel have the same ethical and professional obligations and duties of defense counsel representing adults in criminal court, including the duty to represent the client’s stated interest, and not what counsel, the judge, or the client’s parents believe to be in the client’s—or child’s—best interests. According to the National Juvenile Defense Standards, Standard 1.1 Ethical Obligations of Juvenile Defense Counsel, juvenile defenders are ethically obligated to provide competent, diligent, and zealous advocacy to protect the client’s procedural and substantive rights.
Juvenile defense counsel also must comply with the duties of confidentiality, loyalty, client-centered advocacy, as well as the duty to advise and counsel. And given the special needs of youth in the delinquency system, best practice dictates a more expansive scope of representation than that in adult court. Juvenile defense counsel’s representation should begin prior to the initial hearing and extend throughout the post-disposition phases of the case.
Resources on the Role of Juvenile Defenders, Defender Ethics, and Professional Responsibility:
- Role of Juvenile Defense Counsel in Delinquency Court
- National Juvenile Defense Standards
- Model Code of Professional Responsibility
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