Rosenberg Scholars visit the 315th Juvenile Court

Alabama Immigration Law Rally

Several of the Rosenberg Scholars (Janice, Alex, Chloe) had the opportunity to visit the 315th Juvenile Court last week and speak with Associate Judge Angela Ellis about the child protection court system in Harris County.

Judge Ellis was very generous with her time and spoke to us about her role as judge and developing the GIRLS (Growing Independence Restoring Lives) court for girls who are actively engaged in or at risk of becoming involved in prostitution/human trafficking.  She also gave us helpful tips on what it takes to become a successful child protective attorney: the ability to form a trusting bond with children coupled with excellent trial advocacy skills.  We were able to speak with Judge Ellis in conjunction with our Children & the Law class, taught by Professor Ellen Marrus (Director of the Center for Children, Law & Policy).  Thank you Judge Ellis!

Children and Homicide: A Tough Call

Last week, Sixty Minutes aired a segment on the murder of neo-Nazi leader Jeffrey Hall.  I hadn’t heard about the incident, which occurred last May, and was shocked to hear that Jeffrey Hall’s ten year old son was the alleged murderer.  This case brings up many issues about juvenile sentencing, child abuse, and children’s mental health.  Hall was the regional director for the National Socialist Movement, whose modern day political stances include strong anti-immigrant sentiments.  According to Sixty Minutes, Hall hosted meetings for the group in his home while his children, including his son, roamed about and brought his son along to patrol (with guns) the U.S./Mexico border for individuals attempting to cross the border.  Apparently one night after the family watched a movie and went to bed, Hall fell asleep on his couch.  His young son allegedly put a gun to his father’s head and shot him dead while he was sleeping.

The facts of this case are shocking and disturbing, but they also bring light to the importance of the juvenile justice system.  California’s juvenile justice system, as do many similar systems in other states, aim to not only protect the public from unsafe acts, but also to treat and rehabilitate the young offenders who are charged and adjudicated for crimes.  Children are viewed as not as culpable for their acts because their brains are not fully developed, and they are not necessarily capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. That premise is tough when matched with the facts of Hall’s murder: his son allegedly picked up the gun (that his father taught him to shoot), put it straight to his father’s head and pulled the trigger.  He may not have understood the consequences of his actions, but it would be hard to argue that he did not mean to pull the trigger.  Regardless, with only ten years under his belt, he has yet to hit his most formative years. And not to be disregarded in this case is the alleged physical abuse of Hall’s son, potential mental health issues, and a home environment that seems to encourage hate and violence.

Hall’s son is currently in juvenile detention and awaits his adjudication.  His defense attorney has stated that he might plead a defense of insanity.  In some states, however, youth can be tried as adults for certain crimes.  Thanks to the Supreme Court, however, children may not be given the death penalty even if they are tried in adult court.

Kids Count in Texas

KIDSCOUNT Data CenterSeveral of the Rosenberg Scholars attend the Center for Public Policy Priorities Kids Count briefing yesterday at the United Way.

CPPP and Kids Count have a wealth of data on children in Texas and across the nation.  You can view Texas statistics county by county or see how Texas compares to other states.  The uplifting news was that organizations like CPPP and Kids Count have put a lot of time an effort into collecting this data so that we can get the true, hard facts about the state of children in Texas.  The not so exciting news is that children in Texas are not doing so well.  According to Frances Deviney, the director of Texas Kids Count, Texas children account for half of the population growth of children in the United States between 2010 and 2011.  1 out of 6 Texas children live in poverty.   We have the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation and to top it off, we also have the highest rate of uninsured parents in the nation.  These startling statistics are something for us to think about as we approach the coming year in the Center for Children Law and Policy and hope to work towards solutions.