Racial Justice Training Series

The National Juvenile Defender Center and Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative are pleased to host a Racial Justice Training Series for juvenile defenders and advocates!

As defenders of young people, a critical piece of our work is advancing racial justice. Because the systems we work in exacerbate the disparate treatment of youth of color, the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) and Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative (JJI) have created a portfolio of tools and trainings to equip our community with the resources necessary to help eradicate racial injustice.

This four-part series, delivered by NJDC and Georgetown JJI, is intended to provide juvenile defense professionals with the knowledge they need to advance racial justice as part of their work defending young people.

These sessions are open to all juvenile defense professionals: 

Implicit Racial Bias

Juvenile defenders and advocates have an obligation to look both externally and internally to combat systemic racial injustice by acknowledging and dismantling their own racial biases, as well as the biases of their colleagues. Everyone has biases, even those who engage in career-long opposition to systemic oppression and state coercion. Research shows that even when individuals stand firmly against racism and are ideologically opposed to explicit bias, they may subconsciously allow these factors to affect their representation.

In this session, juvenile defenders and advocates will work to understand implicit bias and how it impacts their clients throughout the juvenile legal system. Participants will pay special attention to how implicit bias impacts their own work on behalf of youth and will learn how to raise awareness about racial disproportionality and implicit bias within the system.

Participants will:

  • Become familiar with significant research studies exposing the pervasive nature of implicit bias;
  • Understand how implicit bias impacts the trajectory of a delinquency case; and
  • Recognize their own biases and learn to counter them.

Policing as Trauma

The world has watched with outrage as Black and brown people have been murdered at the hands of police. While these high-profile incidents have shed some light on the abuses of police power, defenders and advocates know all too well that police brutality is much broader than what we see on our screens. Black and brown youth are oppressed by aggressive policing in every aspects of their lives—at home, in school, and in their communities. For many Black and brown youth, the daily, discriminatory, and unnecessary encounters with police is overwhelming and traumatic.

In this session, participants will learn how to incorporate “policing as trauma” arguments into their advocacy at every stage of a delinquency proceeding, including client interviews, detention and probable cause hearings, disposition hearings, Fourth and Fifth Amendment motions to suppress, motions for a trauma-informed mens rea, motions to dismiss in the interest of justice, self-defense arguments, probation violations, and introduction of expert testimony.

Participants will:

  • Learn from the research and studies on the trauma of policing and racism;
  • Identify the psychological and emotional trauma caused by policing tactics such as stop and frisk, interrogation, detention, etc.;
  • Consider the impact of this trauma on the attorney-client relationship and client interviews; and
  • Develop arguments that raise policing as trauma in a delinquency case.

Race & the Fourth

Incorporating the realities of race and the impact of racial injustice at every stage of a client’s case is a critical component in providing holistic, effective, client-centered legal advocacy to Black and brown youth. Defenders and advocates contribute to systemic reform when they challenge racial injustice in their legal advocacy on behalf of individual clients. Fourth Amendment jurisprudence is ripe for these types of arguments.

This session will encourage participants to shift the reasonable-person standard that underpins current Fourth Amendment jurisprudence to one that focuses on the actions of the “reasonable Black child.” Incorporating knowledge of implicit racial bias, adolescent development, and the relationship between Black and brown youth and the police, this session will help participants identify strategies to raise issues of race and adolescence in Fourth Amendment practice. Trainers will urge participants to consider the commonsense judgments and inferences that flow readily from the unique interplay between race and adolescence in a police-youth encounter.

Participants will discuss:

  • How race and adolescence affect every critical question in the Fourth Amendment analysis;
  • The extent to which a child’s race affects the court’s objective inquiry about whether a police-youth encounter ventures from a “contact” into a seizure;
  • The extent that a child’s race affects the voluntariness of consent;
  • The extent that a child’s race affects the officers’ interpretation of a child’s behavior; and
  • The importance of raising our client’s narrative and experience in courtroom advocacy to empower our clients and effect change in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.

The fourth session is limited to front-line juvenile defense attorneys only: 

Litigating Race & Adolescence

Racial justice advocacy is integral to effective juvenile defense, and juvenile defenders play a vital role, through both courtroom and policy advocacy, in dismantling discriminatory systems that harm youth. A juvenile defender cannot fully, ethically, and zealously represent their young clients if that defender does not consider the impact systemic racism has had on each young person’s life and on the circumstances that brought them into juvenile court. Defenders must consistently raise race as well as the adolescence of their clients in the juvenile legal system.

In this interactive training, defenders will learn how to incorporate research on race, adolescence, and police trauma throughout a case to advocate for their clients’ stated interests, advance the legal strategy of a case, and raise awareness about racial disproportionality, implicit bias, and racial trauma across the system as a whole.

Defenders will use a forensic exercise to learn how to:

  • Use investigation and discovery to gather the information and data necessary to raise racial justice arguments throughout a case;
  • Craft legal arguments that incorporate the intersection of race, adolescence, and police trauma;
  • Elicit facts through witness testimony, exhibits, or experts to raise race, adolescence, and police trauma;
  • Incorporate the scientific research on implicit racial bias, adolescent development, and police trauma into all stages of advocacy; and 
  • Develop strategies for institutional and systemic reform to advocate for change beyond an individual case.

Participants should be committed to a two-hour interactive working session, where they will engage in a forensic exercise to raise race, adolescence, and policing as trauma in their defense of children. This session requires advance reading and preparation.

Front-line defenders who attend this session are strongly encouraged to also attend each of the prior three sessions. 

Learn More

For more information about NJDC and Georgetown JJI’s racial justice portfolio, visit and sign up for our Racial Justice Toolkit and read about our Ambassadors for Racial Justice program.

For group trainings on utilizing the Racial Justice Toolkit, email us at inquiries@defendracialjustice.org.

Want to ensure you hear about all the virtual training sessions offered by NJDC and Georgetown JJI? Email us at njdc@njdc.info to be added to our list!