13th Annual Zealous Advocacy Conference

This morning marked the start of the 13th Annual Zealous Advocacy Conference presented by the Center for Children, Law and Policy at the University of Houston Law Center and the Southwest Regional Juvenile Defender Center.  Nearly 100 attorneys from all across the country involved with and interested in juvenile justice have come to participate in the conference. Kicking off the two-day conference was the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Mr. Bart Lubow, who reviewed the Casey Foundation’s JDAI program in Harris County and around the nation. Gwyneth Rost, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, followed Mr. Lubow with a presentation on linguistics and juvenile defense, focusing on language development and its effect on children and adolescents.  After lunch, Professor Ellen Marrus, Ms. Chris Phillis, Director of the Maricopa County Public Advocate, and Ms. Pamela Vickrey of the Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys, will lead a session on the National Juvenile Defender Center’s Juvenile Training Immersion Program, Multi-Systemic Advocacy: Family, School, and State Agencies.  Next, Professor Malikah Marrus from Missouri State University will present on adolescent development and juvenile defense. Mid-afternoon presentations involve breakout sessions where conference participants will be able to choose between one of three discussions including a continuation of the NJDC’s Juvenile Training Immersion Program, Best Practices for Moving out of Solitary and Removing Shackles, and Linguistics and Juvenile Defense.  Honorable Judge Angela Ellis of the 315th Juvenile District Court in Harris County and Ms. Anna Stool of the Law Offices of Anna Stool will finish up day one with a discussion of the Ethics of Working with Crossover Youth.

Defending with Education

This past summer I was fortunate enough to intern for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Juvenile Division.  There are so many wonderful things they do for their clients, but one of the most impressive things they offer is their Legal Education Advocacy Program.  Lauren Brady Blalock is the Education Lawyer for the program, and has provided the following program description:

The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Juvenile Division is the recipient of a federal Block II Grant, which was awarded to fund the establishment of the Legal Educational Advocacy Program (LEAP). The Program is staffed by an education attorney and a youth advocate, who work as a team to address the myriad of education issues facing youth involved in the juvenile justice system. The program serves over 100 individual clients each year, all of whom are clients of the Public Defender’s Office. The attorney and youth advocate address issues such as special education, truancy, school discipline, academic achievement, and school safety. By assisting students to receive much needed services in a safe and appropriate school setting, the LEAP team is able to address issues that would ordinarily lead to these students being remanded into custody, sent out a placement outside of their communities or sent to juvenile hall for violations of probation. Program evaluation also indicates that the clients themselves have a more positive experience both in school and in court after participation in LEAP.

Education is an often overlooked tool for juvenile defense attorneys.  By implementing programs like San Francisco’s LEAP, attorneys are able to identify and address a child’s specific needs, and have alternative venues for resolving cases.  Even outside of the Public Defender’s Office, defense attorneys should become familiar with available area schools and education programs that could better serve their clients.  Making sure that a client’s education needs are properly met can often alleviate behavioral concerns.  Also, once a child’s needs are identified and a proper plan is in place, children are able to achieve more and can develop a positive outlook towards school.  Defending children requires knowledge of several areas of law.  I encourage child advocates to make education a priority when representing their young clients.

Featured image courtesy of http://drlindagalloway.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/chalk_304851_7.jpg.

Breaking: Big Victory for Juvenile Defenders in Illinois


Update from the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC):

Today, the Illinois Supreme Court issued their opinion in In re Austin M., reversing the decisions of the lower courts and remanding the case for new trial.  The decision is a great victory for the juvenile defense community!  The court held that it is a per se conflict of interest for an attorney to simultaneously function as both defense counsel and guardian ad litem (GAL) in a juvenile delinquency proceeding.

The court found that although the trial court never expressly appointed Austin’s attorney to act as GAL, both the trial court and the attorney perceived that to be his role.  The court agreed with Austin, that his attorney misperceived the role of juvenile defense counsel to be some type of hybrid, and as such he functioned as both GAL and defense counsel.  In so doing, counsel did not live up to his duty to provide zealous advocacy, in violation of Austin’s due process rights and the Illinois Juvenile Court Act.

Additionally, the court noted “[W]hen a minor is charged with a criminal offense – particularly one which may subject him or her to a lifetime of collateral consequences – the minor is entitled to an attorney who is dedicated to providing the minor with a zealous defense, an attorney who will hold the prosecution to its burden of proof.”

Notably, two justices who filed concurring and dissenting opinions, agreed that Austin’s delinquency adjudication should be reversed, but disagreed with the majority’s holding that the State had met its burden of proof and the decision to remand for a new trial. They instead held the evidence presented was insufficient to prove Austin guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Congratulations to Jackie Bullard with the Illinois Office of the State Appellate Defender, on a well fought victory, and to all of the attorneys and advocates who were involved in this case. In coming to this decision, the court also relied on an amicus brief filed by Loyola Civitas Childlaw Center; the Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Children and Family Justice Center; the Juvenile Law Center; and the National Juvenile Defender Center.

The opinion is available at: http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2012/111194.pdf