Promoting justice for all children

10 Things I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Senior Youth Defense Counsel Kristina Kersey has been traveling to and from the Midwest recently, and she’s been learning some things.


How to celebrate the Gaultiversary

Not sure how to celebrate the 55th anniversary of In re Gault? Senior Youth Defense Counsel Kristina Kersey has ten ideas for your May 15 festivities.


Introducing: Dear KK

Dear Abby’s got nothing on the Gault Center. Because we’ve got Senior Youth Defense Counsel Kristina Kersey, who helps this month’s writer figure out when a search by a school official is reasonable.


Top 10 Reasons why Appellate Attorneys are Bae

Looking for love this Valentine’s Day? Senior Youth Defense Counsel Kristina Kersey makes the case for why you should make an appellate attorney your Valentine.


10 New Year’s Revolutions

It’s January, so like many, our Senior Youth Defense Counsel Kristina Kersey is planning the year ahead. But we’re youth defenders, so we don’t make resolutions, we make revolutions.


12 Days of Yuletide Youth-Tide

Looking to add some youth rights advocacy to your holiday celebrations? Senior Youth Defense Counsel Kristina Kersey has you covered, with 12 Days of Yuletide Youth-Tide. Happy holidays from Team NJDC!


10 Things I’m Thankful for as a Youth Defender

NJDC Senior Youth Defense Counsel Kristina Kersey strikes again and we are THANKFUL for it. Join us around the virtual Thanksgiving table for 10 things Kristina is thankful for as a youth defender. Spoiler alert: YOU are one of them!


Tales from the Gault

NJDC Senior Youth Defense Counsel Kristina Kersey is at it again, this time getting into the Halloween spirit with 10 of the scariest things about the juvenile legal system.


Back to (Defending Youth in) School

NJDC Senior Youth Defense Counsel, Kristina Kersey muses about one of her favorite times of the year: back to school, and specifically, back to defending youth in schools.


10 Things States Got Right in Youth Defense

NJDC Senior Youth Defense Counsel, Kristina Kersey discusses the 10 things states got right in youth defense (focused on the states that Kristina herself has visited!).


Keeping up with the Joneses

NJDC Senior Youth Defense Counsel, Kristina Kersey, muses on the “10 Things I Kinda Maybe Don’t Hate” about the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Jones v. Mississippi.

 

Cause of Action: Fulfilling the Promises of Gault

On May 15, 2022, the 55th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s decision in In re Gault, the Gault Center released Cause of Action: Fulfilling the Promises of Gault, an analysis of the state of youth defense and the protection of children’s constitutional rights in this country, more than half a century after the Court affirmed that children require the guiding hand of counsel.

Federal law, 34 U.S.C § 12601, declares that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any governmental authority … to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct … by officials or employees of any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice … that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution ….” For 55 years, states have consistently and systemically acted to deprive children of their constitutional rights to counsel, to due process, and to all the protections that flow therefrom.

State-level officials of all branches of government must act expeditiously to ensure the promises of Gault are being met in every county and every courtroom in their state. And where they do not, the US Department of Justice and the US Attorney General must act under their 34 U.S.C § 12601 authority and pursue civil litigation to ensure every child’s constitutional rights are upheld.

Protecting children’s fundamental right to counsel is a critical matter of civil rights. As Cause of Action demonstrates, the entire history of the juvenile court system in this country has acted to treat Black, Latino/a, and Indigenous children more harshly than white children. States’ disregard for children’s constitutional rights cannot be separated from the fact that the juvenile legal system disproportionately harms Black, Latino/a, and Indigenous youth.


NJDC Believes Black Lives Matter

The National Juvenile Defender Center joins all those mourning the tragic murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Cornelius Frederick, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people across the United States.  Our work and lives as advocates for youth place us on the front lines, where we can and must seek justice, increase liberation, and demand an end to the entrenched racism that puts our young clients’ lives at risks. We must make clear that we stand for a better time than now. The work of justice has always felt urgent. It is, indeed, a matter of life and death. Read NJDC’s full statement here as well as our racial justice and equity statements here.

Joint Statement on the Importance of Specialization of Judges, Prosecutors, and Defenders in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

On April 27, 2021, Fair and Just Prosecution, the  National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the National Juvenile Defender Center released a joint statement on the importance of specialization in juvenile delinquency proceedings. You may read the whole statement here.

 

The Gault Center 

The Gault Center (formerly the National Juvenile Defender Center) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting justice for all children by ensuring excellence in youth defense. Through community building, training, and policy reform, we provide national leadership on youth defense issues with a focus on curbing the deprivation of young people’s rights in the court system. Our reach extends to urban, suburban, rural, and tribal areas, where we elevate the voices of youth, families, and defenders to create positive case outcomes and meaningful opportunities for children. We also work with broad coalitions to ensure that the reform of juvenile courts includes the protection of children’s rights — particularly the right to counsel.



Broken Contracts

Though juvenile courts process more than 850,000 juvenile delinquency cases every year, no comprehensive data exists regarding how many young people are represented by public defenders or contract, appointed, or assigned counsel. While talented lawyers practice in each type of defense system, the resources and quality of representation can vary greatly. This report and toolkit examine ways to create greater support for and standardization of juvenile defense contract counsel systems to help strengthen young people’s voices and rights in the legal system.


In re Gault

Fifty years ago, the United States Supreme Court affirmed that youth in America’s juvenile courts are entitled to many of the same rights as adults, including the right to counsel, the right to notice of the charges against them, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to confront their accusers. This printed version of the case highlights some of the decision’s most important points.

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In re Gault Research Collection

In collaboration with the Georgetown Law Equal Justice Library, NJDC launched the In re Gault research collection, including the Gault footnote bibliography project, reports and training materials on children’s right to counsel, audio-visual material of the Gault family and decision coverage, and court documents that trace the case’s evolution from Gila County, Arizona, to the nation’s highest court. Visit the collection here.