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The second day of the National Juvenile Defenders Center conference began with the issue of Complex Trauma. If you don’t know what that is exactly, you aren’t alone. Complex Trauma in this context is about the multiple traumatic events, sometimes consistently for long periods, that many youth in the juvenile justice system experience. For example, physical and/or sexual abuse at home, followed by more physical and/or sexual abuse in the foster home, and then again in the detention center. The research in this area is a compelling testament to end incarceration and work on preventative care of vulnerable youth.
I next attended a conversational breakout session led by Randy Hertz of New York University Law School. The topic was officially “Preserving Error.” In reality, all aspects of litigating with appellate options in mind were discussed. The take home message was to use every legal device you can to make the case more complicated and time consuming so Judges and the DA would want to get rid of it. Of course, bearing in mind the ethical duties of lawyers, including to not make frivolous motions.
Then, during the lunch hour, a representative of the Department of Justice who could not speak yesterday morning gave his presentation. The presentation used a great deal of civil rights and youth related data. This was particularly timely as the next session involved a great deal of data on incarceration and its ineffectiveness. The take home message from this plenary session was: get comfortable using data so you can torture it and present it and make it do your bidding. Seriously, juvenile defenders do need to use data intelligently to advocate for youth involved in the justice system.
This evening the regional caucus will meet to discuss next steps in their states.