National Juvenile Justice Network is Hosting Several Events throughout October

In a Proclamation from the White House, President Biden officially claimed October 2021 as National Youth Justice Action Month. He called on Americans to “observe this month by taking action to support our youth and by participating in appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs in their communities.” [1] Heeding that call, I have provided events and actions that we can take throughout the month (and beyond) to support this year’s mission, “Acting to End Racism: Pursuing Equity through Policy.”[2]

  • The National Juvenile Justice Network is hosting several events throughout the month:
  • Tuesday, Oct. 12th 3:00-4:30 PM ET “Treat Kids as Kids: Stop the Adult Criminalization of Youth.” This workshop will focus on policy changes that ensure youth are not treated like adults, including ending youth interrogations, direct file reform, and repealing Juvenile Life Without Parole laws.
  • Monday, Oct. 18th 3:00-4:30 PM ET “Care Not Cages: Invest in Families and Community.” This workshop will focus on how states have begun closing youth prisons, ending contracts with for-profit residential treatment centers, and committed to reducing use of congregate care.
  • Monday, Oct. 18th through Friday, October 22nd “Virtual Hill Visits.” Participants are encouraged to schedule meetings with their federal delegations to discuss important youth justice issues. NJJN will provide information/training on pending federal legislation and materials.

To register for workshops, please visit https://www.tfaforms.com/4926781.

  • The Texas Network of Youth Services is hosting a Town Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 19th from 3:00-4:00 PM CDT where they will “explore how youth-serving providers can prevent justice involvement and best support young people involved in the juvenile justice system.” For information and to RSVP, please visit http://tnoys.org/events/.
  • Support legislation aimed at reinvesting in America’s Youth. As part of his Fiscal Year 2022 budget, President Biden proposed $800 million for juvenile justice and youth reentry programs. If passed, this would be the highest allocation in the history of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection Act.[3] Contact your Members of Congress and demand they pass a budget that adequately addresses the needs of our children.

Now more than ever, we must make our voices heard to protect and advocate for our children. Please join us during this #YJAM to do just that.

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/09/30/a-proclamation-on-national-youth-justice-action-month-2021/

[2] https://www.tfaforms.com/4926781

[3] https://www.juvjustice.org/blog/1339

Harris County Street Law Mock Trial Competition

The best time of the Street Law Course is the mock trial competition, typically held at the end of the academic year. During this time the students compete to win as the best mock trial team of the year. The teams the students are in are based on the location they are taking the street law course at, which can vary from community programs to their actual high school. All the students competing are high-school aged.

During the academic year, the students in street law are being taught by 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th year (part-time) law students that attend the University of Houston Law Center. Typically, the students have the street law course two or more times a week. Many of the students in the street law course can take it for high school credit. Throughout the first semester of street law, as street law is a year-long academic course, the students are learning foundational understandings of civil and criminal law. The mock trial problem that the students get is going to be either civil or criminal, but it is unknown until closer to or during the second semester

The curriculum the instructors are teaching the students helps understand which students will be better for which roles during the mock trial competition. For example, if there is a speaking activity that the students need to do. The ones that like to lead the group will more than likely be the lead attorney for the mock trial competition. Another example, if there is an activity that involved bringing out one’s personability and one of the students does that exceptionally well. Then that student will more than likely be considered to hold a witness role, as witnesses need to have unique personalities.

Once the mock trial packet is received, the excitement begins. The next step is to read the entire mock trial packet to get an understanding of the laws being used, facts, jury verdicts, and evidence. During this time students are starting to use their critical thinking skills to analyze how the rules of the law might apply to the facts. All these skills are typically derived from the knowledge the students have gained over the year in the street law course. There are usually two to three witnesses for each side of the case that gave a sworn deposition in the packet. The students understand these witnesses and what their motives, credibility, and intent are in the case. Each one of the witnesses is played by one of the students in the mock trial so it is important to fully understand what the role of the witness is in the case. Additionally, in the case packet are the laws that will be applied in the case, which the students break down and use persuasively towards the facts given for their respective party in the case. The students are also given the jury form to help understand what it is the jury will be measuring to make their final verdict based on how well the case and chief, opening, and closings were presented. Being thorough and effective when presenting the case is of the utmost importance for the students to win.

Next are the attorneys. There can be two or more attorneys for each side. The students must prepare an opening statement, direct and cross-examinations for all witnesses, and a closing argument. Typically, each one of these sections is done by two or more student attorneys. The student attorneys also get a chance to learn courtroom evidentiary proceedings. This allows the student attorneys to have an opportunity to keep out certain types of evidence that might hurt their case. Once at trial, the students dress professionally and put on their case versus the other respective street law locations in Harris County. This is when the countless hours spent prepping for the mock trial, practicing with all witnesses, preparing opening and closings are put on a show. In the mock trial tournament, there are brackets, kind of like March Madness, except it is not single elimination. The brackets are random, and teams are scored by real attorneys and judges who practice in the field. The scores the students receive throughout the first two to three rounds determine which teams will go to the semifinals. It is as simple as the four teams with the highest scored through those first two to three rounds move on. Usually, there are about 12-16 teams in the tournament, so it can get quite competitive. Once the semifinals are concluded the two teams who won that round versus the team, they went against will move on to the finals. The two teams in finals compete for first place and whoever wins is the Harris County Street Law Champion of that academic year. There are awards and trophies/medals awarded for the team that won and individual awards as well for top performances.

The tournament pre-Covid was always held in person and took up an entire day. Post-Covid it has been virtual taking place over two days. Hopefully, we get the opportunity to do it in person back, as it brings everyone together. This is a great time for everyone involved and I believe having this tournament for the street law students gives them a real opportunity to see the value of understanding the law and possibly wanting to have a career in the legal field.

The Supreme Court Shaping the Future of Athletes, Lawmakers, and Businesspeople from High School to College Sports

The Supreme Court of the United States is now allowing college athletes to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness. As stated by Justice Kavanaugh “The NCAA is not above the law.”[i] The ability to have a Supreme Court Justice state this message is a huge win for high school athletes planning to pursue athletics in college. Additionally, Justice Kavanaugh states “the NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student-athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”[ii]

Now that high school athletes will be facing a new playing field of being able to receive compensation when they attend college, how do they go about this? High school athletes that do plan to play college sports need better preparedness for the new business model, the NCAA will be instituting to compensate athletes. With imminent laws allowing college players to make money off their name, image, and likeness, most schools are in an arms race, hiring third-party companies to act as consultants in content creation, education, and compliance. This is extremely important for students as businesses can now enter into contracts with high school students for when they go out and become athletes at colleges. To be prepared for this, high school students will need to take courses or be given instruction to understand their role in the business. It is well known that a lot of musical artists who sign contracts do not have proper representation at times and end up getting scammed out of the compensation they earned, because of the inability to understand contractual agreements. Which is not the fault of the musical artist. High schools athletes and their parents will now take on a larger responsibility in ensuring that the athletes who are being represented by a company, while they are athletes in college, are properly equipped with the knowledge to receive just compensation from their name, image, and likeness.

The way that high school athletes can be prepared for the new business model of receiving compensation from their name, image, and likeness is by requiring high schools to teach about the new laws in their sports courses. In the state of Texas, the majority of public high schools require their athletes to take a course of the sport they play on their schedule. This is done to give the students physical education credit. During this course, the Texas education system should instruct the teachers/coaches of this course to teach the high school athletes about the new law of getting compensation in college. Additionally, in that same course, the Texas education system should instruct the teachers/coaches to teach the high school students about personal and business finance. This will set the high school athletes up for a better chance of success when being compensated in college as an athlete.

High school athletes need to understand their place in the new business model and need to understand how to go about receiving compensation in college and not get lost within it. As stated by a father of a high school athlete “How are we going to protect them? … How are we going to make it about the purity of the game?”[iii] This reiterates the importance of educating the high school athletes before the college of the new business model they are about to enter into. Additionally, this is a great opportunity to educate high school-age students who have an interest in the legal and financial side of sports, ways of understanding the college athlete’s compensation model to create ways they may influence athletes to make the best choices for themselves. Many avenues may implememnted to help benefit the high school athletes that want to play college sports and have the potential to earn compensation from doing so. It is the job of lawmakers and the state education systems to apply those avenues to create a better future for these future college athletes, lawyers, and businesspeople.

[i] Dan Murphy, Supreme Court unanimously sides with former college players in dispute with NCAA about compensation, ESPN, https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/31679946/supreme-court-sides-former-players-dispute-ncaa-compensation.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Roman Stubbs, High school sports will feel the impact of NIL changes. For some, that’s cause for concern., Wash Post: High School Sports, https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2021/06/21/nil-changes-high-school-sports/.