Leadership Development

NJDC works to create a permanent capacity for the juvenile defense bar to establish and maintain leadership positions in the justice community. In addition to juvenile defenders serving on state advisory groups or commissions, a number of positions and units have been established across the country to elevate juvenile defense leadership and capacity. Here are some examples.

California Juvenile Appellate Committee

The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center (PJDC) created an appellate committee that coordinates juvenile appellate work across the state, a state-wide juvenile appellate listserv, and developed a set of FAQs on juvenile delinquency appeals for defenders to increase coordination between appellate counsel and front-line juvenile defenders. The appellate committee delivers trainings across the state on a variety of juvenile appellate matters and disseminates sample motions and forms as part of those trainings.

Colorado Office of Alternate Defense Counsel Specialized Juvenile Defense Positions

In the wake of NJDC’s Colorado Juvenile Indigent Defense Assessment, the state’s Office of Alternate Defense Counsel (ADC) recognized the need to make changes to its juvenile indigent defense contracting system to embrace the practice as a specialty and ensure the provision of quality representation by juvenile delinquency contract counsel. To revamp its approach, ADC created a Contract Juvenile Defense Coordinator position staffed by an experienced attorney who oversees and coordinates all of the contract attorneys that handle juvenile delinquency cases, serves as a resource attorney by providing training and technical assistance, and actively participates in the contracting process.

In addition to the Contract Juvenile Defense Coordinator, ADC designated specific contract attorneys to handle juvenile appeals. ADC also established a separate process for contracting with juvenile delinquency counsel that requires applicants to have previous experience and show a demonstrated commitment to and genuine interest in juvenile defense practice. During the renewal period, each contract attorney is reevaluated to ensure that he or she is competent and committed to providing quality juvenile delinquency representation. All juvenile defense contract counsel are encouraged to obtain a copy of the juvenile defense practice manual that was developed by ADC and the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition (CJDC), to attend an annual juvenile defense conference hosted by ADC in partnership with CJDC, and must engage in regular juvenile specific training. To keep contract counsel abreast of changes and emerging issues pertaining to juvenile law and juvenile defense practice, ADC hosts juvenile-specific roundtables and disseminates periodic juvenile law and practice updates. Currently, ADC is working to establish regional points of contact throughout the state to allow for greater oversight and quality assurance on the ground.

Establishing a specialized Contract Juvenile Defense Coordinator position, appointing specialized juvenile appellate attorneys, and mandating specialized requirements to apply for a juvenile defense contract  all build leadership in juvenile defense and advance a specialized juvenile defense practice.

Louisiana Public Defender Board Juvenile Defender Positions

When the statewide Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB) was created in 2007, it included two full-time staff dedicated exclusively to juvenile defense issues. The Board’s Director of Juvenile Defender Services, works with representatives of all three branches of state government and other criminal justice stakeholders—including judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, probation officers, and law enforcement officials—to promote sound juvenile justice policies regarding fair adjudication processes and the placement and treatment of juveniles charged in delinquency proceedings that focus on rehabilitation of the offender. The Director also promotes positive change in educational opportunities and mental health and other treatment services for juveniles in the court system and ensures that board policies and public pronouncements properly recognize that children and young adults do not possess the same cognitive, emotional, decision-making, or behavioral capacities as adults and, as such, require that special attention be given to the representation of juveniles to ensure uniformly competent representation.

The Board’s Juvenile Justice Compliance Officer coordinates statewide projects to support district defender offices across the state with their juvenile defense needs and to encourage public education and defender outreach. She monitors defender compliance with LPBD standards and guidelines for representing indigent juvenile clients and confers with judges and district attorneys, and defenders in every judicial district in the state on evaluating and improving the delivery of constitutionally required defense of indigent juveniles in Delinquency and FINS courts, as well as juveniles or their parents in CINC courts.

Maryland Office of the Public Defender: Juvenile Protection Division

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender established the Juvenile Protection Division (JPD) in 2007 to serve as a specialized statewide division to monitor the conditions of confinement of all juvenile clients committed to the care and custody of the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS). In addition to monitoring conditions of confinement, JPD is also responsible for protecting the individual rights of juveniles who are committed to DJS facilities, ensuring the safety and appropriateness of their placements, and assuring the timely implementation of and full compliance with juvenile court orders. JPD is comprised of three attorneys, one social worker, and one paralegal, who work collaboratively with the trial attorneys to represent individual youth and act as an ongoing resource for attorneys struggling with system barriers to post-disposition representation. JPD was established following NJDC’s 2003 assessment of Maryland’s juvenile indigent defense system, which documented the absence and inadequate assistance of counsel during the post-disposition stage, despite a statutory right to counsel post-disposition.

The Maryland Juvenile Protection Division is an excellent example of a statewide juvenile defense unit that has elevated juvenile defense as a specialized practice and supported leadership of juvenile defenders in the legal community.

Massachusetts Local Juvenile Defense Resource Counsel and Supervising Attorneys

As part of its function to provide direction and oversight to all court-appointed counsel in Massachusetts, the Youth Advocacy Division (YAD) of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) recruits, trains, and supports private attorneys to serve as Local Resource Attorneys and Juvenile Supervising Attorneys (JSAs) in the state’s twelve counties. The Local Resource Attorneys mentor less experienced juvenile defense contract counsel. The JSAs supervise all of the juvenile delinquency and youthful offender contract attorneys in their county while providing leadership, technical assistance, coaching, and support. In this supervisory role, the JSAs are responsible for reviewing cases, monitoring court appearances and handling complaints. JSAs also serve as a liaison between the courts, judges, CPCS, the Department of Youth Services, and other agencies.

North Carolina Office of the Juvenile Defender

The Office of the Juvenile Defender (OJD) was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in January 2005 as a direct result of NJDC’s 2003 assessment of the state’s juvenile indigent defense system. The purpose of OJD is to serve as a central resource and juvenile defense consultant for defenders across the state to evaluate the current system of representation and make recommendations as needed, elevate the stature of juvenile delinquency representation, and work with juvenile justice advocates to promote positive change in the juvenile justice system. The office is housed within the Indigent Defense Services Commission and is staffed by a Juvenile Defender (appointed by the Commission), an Assistant Juvenile Defender, and an Administrative staff person. Under the leadership of the Juvenile Defender, OJD staff works together to provide local, statewide, and regional training and technical assistance. In addition, the office collaborates with advocates and community-based organizations to create transformative programming and practical resources and engage in policy advocacy. In collaboration with its advisory board and key stakeholders, OJD established juvenile defense practice standards and developed a statement on the role of juvenile defense counsel that was distributed statewide. Statewide leadership on juvenile defense through the Office of the Juvenile Defender has furthered juvenile defense specialization across the state and led to numerous positive reforms.

Juvenile Defenders Association of Pennsylvania

In response to Pennsylvania’s county-based approach to juvenile defense, which created a patchwork system that administered “justice by geography” creating uneven access to quality legal representation across counties, the Juvenile Defenders Association of Pennsylvania (JDAP) was established to lift and unify juvenile indigent defense practice in the state. JDAP operates as a statewide membership organization that is dedicated to supporting zealous and quality legal representation for children in Pennsylvania’s delinquency courts. To advance reform, the organization developed a set of recommendations, produced guidelines and a training manual for juvenile defense attorneys, expanded training programs to reach defenders across the state, created a model expungement policy, and is assisting with the development of model juvenile defense units in diverse counties. Through its education and training programs and its policy advocacy, JDAP is building a strong network of juvenile public defenders, contract, and assigned counsel who specialize in the representation of children and consistently provide their clients with competent and effective legal services. Creation and maintenance of JDAP has significantly advanced juvenile defense reforms across the state.

Homegrown Juvenile Defense Leadership in South Dakota

As a defender in South Dakota has demonstrated, real change can be advanced by a single person who may have very little resources, but who has the drive to become a leader. After attending the National Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit, this defender was energized by the wealth of information that she had accumulated and the new relationships she fostered within the national juvenile defense community. Empowered, she took what she learned at Summit back to her home state, expressed her interest to work exclusively with youth, and with the support of her office began engaging in juvenile defense work full-time. In addition to becoming the only indigent defender in South Dakota that works exclusively with young clients, this juvenile defender serves as a resource to juvenile defense practitioners throughout the state, is a Certified JTIP Trainer who is able to deliver specialized juvenile defense training, and is often consulted by stakeholders at all levels for her expertise on juvenile issues and advancing reform. One juvenile defense leader in a state can make a tremendous impact.

Missouri State Public Defender Juvenile/Capital Appellate Attorney Position

In the wake of NJDC’s 2013 Missouri Assessment, the Missouri State Public Defender created a position for a juvenile/capital appellate attorney to specialize in both juvenile and capital appellate issues. This appellate attorney is responsible for handling juvenile appeals, advising juvenile attorneys about issues related to juvenile clients, and serving as a resource/training counsel for juvenile defenders in the trial division.

Ohio Public Defender, Juvenile Division, Appellate Practice

The Juvenile Division of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, which consists of a division chief and seven attorneys, represents youth who have been committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services on appeal, post-conviction matters, detention credit issues, sex offender registration issues, and early release. The Juvenile Division has a rigorous appellate practice that includes one supervising appellate attorney and three appellate lawyers who handle all the appeals for youth in the Ohio Department of Youth Services, along with referrals from county public defender offices, or other local counsel. The appellate staff has been successful at getting the Ohio Supreme Court to take cases and deliver favorable decisions on cases involving sex offender registration, right to counsel, and transfer. The Juvenile Division recently added one attorney who will handle their cases on remand, as well as two attorneys who handle conditions of confinement issues for youth in the Ohio Department of Youth Services. The Juvenile Division was created in the wake of the 2006 assessment of access to and quality of juvenile defense in Ohio and has been a catalyst for reform across the state.

Washington MacArthur Models for Change Initiative Special Counsel

As part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative, a Special Counsel position was created in Washington to assist in statewide efforts to enhance juvenile defense. The Special Counsel’s goals include improving juvenile defenders’ access to training, mentoring, and technical assistance; coordinating and building models of high quality holistic defense practices; and increasing juvenile defender’s leadership and meaningful participation in system reform efforts. The Special Counsel position in Washington State led to the strengthening and growth of the Washington juvenile defense community and secured a place for juvenile defenders at the reform table.

Wisconsin State Public Defender Appellate Attorneys

In an effort to increase appellate advocacy in juvenile delinquency cases, the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office supports three appellate attorneys who specialize in juvenile appeals (in addition to their regular appellate caseload); trains juvenile trial attorneys on preserving a record for appeal; and allows appellate attorneys to second chair in juvenile delinquency proceedings to foster cross-training on trial and appellate issues and to brainstorm approaches for difficult cases.