Guiding Principles

“From a moral standpoint it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor’s character deficiencies will be reformed.”

-Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 570 (2005)

NJDC’s work is framed by a set of Guiding Principles to ensure fidelity to a set of common values rooted in law and science. These Guiding Principles are:

  1. Juvenile defenders play a critical role in the fair administration of justice for children;
  2. Juvenile defense is a specialized practice anchored in juvenile-specific training and practice skills;
  3. Juvenile defense requires zealous advocacy;
  4. Juvenile defense requires competence and proficiency in court rules and the law;
  5. Juvenile defense requires legal representation that is individualized;
  6. Juvenile defense requires representation that is developmentally appropriate;
  7. Juvenile defense is based on the clients’ expressed interests;
  8. Juvenile defense requires that clients be meaningful participants in their defense;
  9. Juvenile defense includes counseling clients through the legal and extralegal processes;
  10. Juvenile defense includes ensuring that clients and their families are treated with dignity and respect and that there is decorum in the courtroom;
  11. Systemic barriers and deficiencies impair juvenile defender’s abilities to provide high-quality representation; and
  12. Systemic barriers and deficiencies lead to disproportionate representation of vulnerable, underserved populations at every contact with and stage of the juvenile delinquency court process.