Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Here’s a look at today’s top stories affecting children’s rights, juvenile justice, and education:

Visa offers path for immigrant youth in state care, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Maria Boudet has no memory of Mexico or how she came to the United States. What she does remember is the year she turned 16 and found out she was living in the country illegally.

Two years ago, her mother was deported, her brother was detained and she was put in foster care. A powerful reminder of all she lost and gained is printed on the top right corner of her green card: “SL6.” That’s the code for special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), the little-known program that allows Boudet and hundreds like her each year to live and work in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident.

York County’s “juvenile lifers” all expecting court hearings, York Daily Record

Attorneys representing the 11 men from York County serving life without parole sentences for murders committed as juveniles all filed a motion or petition in county court by Friday just to make sure they did not miss a deadline.

Whether there was a deadline remains something of a question.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 25 that mandatory life sentences for juvenile killers is unconstitutional.

Pennsylvania law mandates that a convicted person has 60 days from the time a new law is “enacted” to file for relief.

The question defense attorneys had was: When did or does the clock start ticking? Was it the day of the Supreme Court ruling or in the future when the state legislature enacts new law governing the sentencing of juvenile murders?

A Look at Girls in the Juvenile Justice System, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE)

A report released this month takes an in-depth look at how girls are represented in North Carolina’s juvenile justice system, how the numbers have shifted over the years and why females are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system despite the overall decrease in juvenile crime. Representing Girls In the Juvenile Justice System, released by the North Carolina Office of the Juvenile Defender, looks at not only the characteristics and risk factors of girls in the juvenile justice system, but also offers several best practices to best serve the unique issues this population faces.

Q&A with Shay Bilchik, Former Head of the Federal Office on Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE)

What is a Parent’s Role When Their Child is Being Interrogated?

Photo courtesy of: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-3hEMhzEB7Js/TgFTZYtgwvI/AAAAAAAABPE/wbHB9YT8pe0/s1600/juvieSL0019_500px.jpg

University of North Carolina Professor Tamar Birckhead wrote an interesting blog post addressing the role of parents during juvenile interrogations:

The question of the proper impact and role of the parent arises most often in the context of the interrogation of juveniles.  A few states (including Colorado, Connecticut, and North Carolina) require a parent or guardian to be present during the custodial questioning of a youth by law enforcement (the specifics depend on the statute); in states where this is not the law, advocates have pushed for such an amendment under the assumption that a parent will adequately protect a youth from the intimidation and trickery that may be utilized by the police.

Yet, those of us who have represented juveniles know that when parents are present during interrogation, they can often hurt the defense case. Parents may inadvertently give their children incorrect legal advice.  They, themselves, can fall under the sway and pressure of the officer conducting the questioning.  Or parents may themselves pressure their child to admit to wrongdoing, believing it is the “right thing to do” from a moral and values-based perspective but without appreciating the legal consequences.

Over the years, I have spoken with parents whose children have been questioned by an unrelated adult regarding an alleged act of wrongdoing.  In some cases, the other adult is a police officer or school resource officer.  In others it is not a law enforcement officer but a merchant or neighbor, and the “case” is not likely to be referred to delinquency court.  Even so, there can be potentially significant consequences if the child admits to the conduct, from school suspension to removal from an organization or program.

Professor Birckhead goes on to discuss the advice she gives when asked whether parents should be present at juvenile interrogations. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer. Read the rest of the article here.

Prof. Birckhead also briefly discusses some of the ethical considerations that often perplex juvenile defenders. Personally, I can see how a parent’s presence at their child’s interrogation may confuse a defense attorney who is unsure whose interests they are representing. Should the attorney’s actions represent what he or she views as the child’s best interests? What if a parent insists the attorney takes a particular course of action? What if a child confesses at a parent’s urging, but against the advice of the child’s attorney? These are tough ethical questions, but as Prof. Birckhead notes, a child’s attorney should represent the child’s wishes even if they differ from the wishes of his or her parent.

Any thoughts on the proper role of parents during juvenile interrogations?