By LaToya Blackmon Powell

This year, the Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section will celebrate its 20th anniversary. As your new chair, I am honored to lead the section at such a historic time for both our section and our state, which is engaged in a major reform of the juvenile justice system. We want to commemorate these milestones in a big way and want you to be involved. Here is a look at what we are planning for this year and how you can help!

CLE Program on ‘Raise the Age’

Twenty years ago, our section was discussing the need for comprehensive juvenile justice reform in North Carolina, which included raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction. Since 1919, when the first juvenile court was created, N.C. law has required that minors be prosecuted as adults for all crimes beginning at age 16. This year, North Carolina joined the remainder of the country and raised the age to move most 16 and 17-year-olds to juvenile court. This historic legislation, called the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, includes major changes to the juvenile justice system that will be implemented over the next two years.

Our annual CLE in May 2018 will focus on the implementation of Raise the Age and how your representation of youthful offenders in juvenile and criminal courts will be affected. The CLE Committee needs your help to make this program a success. If you would like to join the committee and assist in planning this exciting event, please contact CLE Co-Chairs Peggy Nicholson at peggynicholson@scsj.org or Matt Ellinwood at matt@ncjustice.org.

‘New’ Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section Blog

Last year, we moved away from the newsletter format and created a new blog. Writing articles for the blog is a great way to increase your visibility among the bar and bring attention to important issues affecting juvenile law. If you would like to submit an article for the blog or have ideas for relevant topics, please contact our Communications Co-Chairs Elysia Prendergast-Jones at elysia.prendergast@gmail.com or Sabrina Leshore at sabrinaleshore@yahoo.com.

Racial Justice Awareness

The Racial Justice Committee has been engaged in activities to raise awareness among our section and the NCBA about racial disparities in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. With financial assistance from the N.C. Bar Foundation Endowment Fund, four of our members attended Phase I of the Racial Equity Institute (REI) Anti-Racism Workshop earlier this year to understand how race affects outcomes in these two systems. Those same members will complete the REI Phase II Workshop by October to learn how to use the knowledge gained from Phase I to take concrete action to promote racial equity through our work as child advocates, and, more broadly, in our society.

To increase awareness about these issues among our members, the committee plans to create educational materials to disperse to NCBA attorneys. The committee also may host a webinar or live CLE program in collaboration with REI to expand this training to more attorneys. To learn more about these exciting activities or to join the Racial Justice Committee, please contact Racial Justice Chair Brandy Bynum Dawson at brandy.bynumdawson@foundationhli.org.

Juvenile Justice Task Force

The Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force (JJRTF) is a collaborative, multi-stakeholder forum for those interested in providing positive outcomes for youth in the justice system. JJRTF was created last year as part of the Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section to help identify and promote necessary reforms to the juvenile justice system. The JJRTF is inclusive and welcomes any member of the NCBA to contact us and attend future meetings. Current members include juvenile and criminal defenders, prosecutors, advocates, and juvenile justice representatives. If you are interested in joining the JJRTF, please contact the group’s facilitator, Ricky Watson, at rickywatsonjr@scsj.org. Our next meeting is at the N.C. Bar Center in Cary on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 11 a.m.

Committee Memberships

We need your help! Please consider joining one of our committees. Here is the full list of committee chairs and co-chairs:

CLE Committee: Matt Ellinwood (matt@ncjustice.org) and Peggy Nicholson (peggynicholson@scsj.org)

  • See above for more information about what this committee does and how you can help.

Communications: Elysia Prendergast-Jones (elysia.prendergast@gmail.com) and Sabrina Leshore (sabrinaleshore@yahoo.com)

  • See above for more information about what this committee does and how you can help.

Legislative Committee: Deana Fleming (dkf@childandfamilylawyers.com) and Brandy Bynum Dawson (brandy.bynumdawson@foundationhli.org)

  • This committee actively tracks and informs council members of legislation affecting areas of law relevant to our section, including education, child welfare, and juvenile justice.

Membership Committee: Eric Zogry (Eric.J.Zogry@nccourts.org)

  • This committee serves as our liaison to the NCBA Membership Committee and works on developing strategies to recruit and retain members in our section.

Racial Justice Committee: Brandy Bynum Dawson (brandy.bynumdawson@foundationhli.org)

  • See above for more information about what this committee does and how you can help.

I am looking forward to an exciting and productive year. Please contact me at attypowell@gmail.com if you have any questions, want to join a committee, or have ideas about additional projects that our section can pursue.