Category: Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights

Racial Equity Report Cards Expose Disproportionate Discipline Rates in NC Schools

From the Youth Justice Project

The Youth Justice Project of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice has released Racial Equity Report Cards for each of the state’s 115 school districts and one for the state as a whole. The Report Cards, released in January, use public data on academic achievement, school discipline and juvenile court involvement to provide a snapshot of a community’s school-to-prison pipeline, including any racial disproportionalities that exist in the pipeline.

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What Happens Next With Raise the Age In North Carolina?

By Marcus Thompson

On Thursday, Jan. 11, the N.C. Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC) met for its second meeting since the passage of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act. During the meeting, several presenters addressed the committee with research data and considerations for the juvenile justice system prior to and after the changes to the law are implemented.

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Takeaways From the National Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit

By Eric Zogry

From Oct. 19 through Oct. 22, I attended the 21st Annual National Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit in Albuquerque, N. M. The Summit, presented by the National Juvenile Defender Center, brings together hundreds of juvenile defenders, youth advocates and other juvenile justice stakeholders from around the country. The two and a half day conference includes plenary sessions, interspersed with workshops. Plenary topics trend toward cutting-edge issues, and this year included panels on youth homelessness, the immigration crisis and the injustice of race-based policing. Plenaries also provided short segments on new initiatives, with titles such as “We Are All Criminals” and “Creative Justice.”

Between the plenaries there are eight workshops running simultaneously. Workshops range from trial tactics to innovative policy strategies to best practices. I enjoyed getting a refresher on defending Miller cases in one session then learning about the use of data in improving defender performance in another. I was honored to be co-presenting a workshop on creating a competent juvenile defense system with my colleagues Josh Dohan from the Youth Advocacy Division in Massachusetts and Devon Lee from the Wisconsin Office of the State Public Defender.

Another great benefit of the Summit is the opportunity to interact with leaders from states around your geographical region. North Carolina is part of the Southern Juvenile Defender Center (SJDC), along with six other states. Meetings from the SJDC Advisory Committee and Regional Caucus help focus the region on initiatives to help support policy and practice efforts specific to the regional.  We were very proud that one of our own, Gary “Gar” Blume from Northport, Ala., was awarded the annual Robert E. Shepherd Award for Excellence in Juvenile Defense.

For more information about the Summit, please look here or feel free to contact our office.

Chair’s Comments: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights

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.

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In Re Gault: Defending the Defenders and the Due Process They Protect

By Eric J. Zogry

May 15, 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision In re Gault. Gerald Gault was a 16-year-old adjudicated and confined for making an illicit phone call to an elderly neighbor. Gerald was given no notice of the charges, no attorney, no opportunity to cross examine witnesses, and not informed of his right to remain silent when speaking to authorities. The Supreme Court determined these rights apply in juvenile delinquency court, firmly establishing the rule of law and due process.

While Gault emphasized the importance of counsel in juvenile proceedings, the ensuing response from court systems across the country has been mixed. Some states have a mandatory right to counsel, other states still require a showing of indigency from the parents. Attorneys might be appointed at the earliest stages of the case, like arrest, while others may have to wait until after arraignment, even being unrepresented at a detention hearing. Legal representation frequently ends after a disposition or sentence is entered, but what about the “guiding hand” of counsel while on probation or in a secured facility? Are attorneys properly trained, supported, and financed, or does juvenile defense continue to take a back seat to adult criminal representation? These issues and more need to be addressed before the promise of Gault can be fully achieved.

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Juvenile Representation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: JJCR Section Annual Meeting 2017

By Matthew Ellinwood and Sabrina Leshore

Have you had questions regarding juvenile law that were left unanswered? Have you wondered what the juvenile court judges deem most effective when appearing in their courtrooms? Are you interested in hearing from youth who are directly impacted by the daily decisions made by practitioners and judges on their behalf?

Well, the Juvenile Representation CLE scheduled for Friday, May 12, 2017 at the Cary Bar Center is just for you!!!  The first 15 Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section Members who register BEFORE May 5, 2017 will receive an additional rebate which will lower the registration fee.

This CLE will provide attendees with effective strategies for juvenile representation from practitioners in the field, juvenile judges, and youth impacted by contact with the juvenile justice system.

Key topics covered will include:

  • Practical suggestions from experienced attorneys handling cases in abuse, neglect, and dependency court
  • Judges’ examples of effective advocacy from their experiences in juvenile court
  • Perspectives from youth who were formerly involved in the juvenile delinquency and child welfare systems
  • A look back at the meaning of In re Gault after 50 years
  • Dealing with stress and trauma from handling difficult juvenile cases

Matthew Ellinwood and Sabrina Leshore are co-chairs of JJCR-CLE.

Raise the Age NC Is Becoming a Reality with Introduction of New Bill

By Marcus Thompson

Since 2007, seven states have changed their laws to include youth 16 and 17 years of age in the juvenile justice system, cutting the number of youth in the criminal justice system in half nationwide and without any detrimental effects on the wallets of taxpayers.  North Carolina and New York still remain the only two states that treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.

Last week, House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, which raises the age to include juveniles 16 and 17 years of age in the North Carolina juvenile justice system, was introduced to the legislator and announced during a press conference.  Rep. Chuck McGrady stated that “besides being the right thing to do, this bill was also fiscally the right thing to do” because it would save the state money in the long term.

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Foster Care Extended to Age 21

By Sara DePasquale

The new year brings Foster Care 18-21 to North Carolina. This is a new program that offers extended foster care to children who have aged out from foster care. Foster Care 18-21 was created by S.L. 2015-241, Section 12C.9 and became effective on Jan. 1. The North Carolina Division of Social Services provides additional information about this new program in its Child Welfare Services Policy Manual, Section 1201, XII (“NC DSS §1201, XII”).

Eligibility Based on Age

A juvenile who is in foster care when he or she turns 18 may enter into a voluntary foster care agreement with a county department and continue to receive foster care services and benefits until turning 21. GS 131D-10.2B(a). The young adult who has aged out of foster care may enter into a voluntary foster care agreement at any time prior to his or her 21st birthday. Id.

There is nothing in the statute or state policy that limits enrollment to those children who age out of foster care on or after Jan. 1, 2017. As a result, it appears that children who aged out of foster care before Jan. 1, 2017 and who are not yet 21 years old may enroll in the Foster Care 18-21 program. Those young adults may contact either the county department where they were in foster care (county of origin) or where they currently reside. NC DSS §1201, XII.J.

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‘Raise the Age’ Receives Historic Law Enforcement Support

By LaToya B. Powell

Yesterday, lawmakers returned to Raleigh for the 2017 long session. Among the many important issues the legislature is expected to consider this year, “raise the age” will likely once again be included. Since 1919, N.C. law has required that minors be prosecuted as adults for all crimes beginning at age 16. There has been a long-standing campaign to raise the juvenile age but legislative proposals attempting to do so have repeatedly failed. New York is the only other state in the nation that automatically prosecutes 16-year-olds as adults, although that state allows “reverse waiver” which permits transfer from criminal to juvenile court.

One of the reasons often cited for the legislature’s reluctance to raise the age is the strong opposition of law enforcement officers and prosecutors to such reform. That assertion is no longer valid, at least in part. The N.C. Sheriffs’ Association and several other law enforcement groups have publicly endorsed a new raise the age proposal by the Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ). The proposal recommends that North Carolina raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 16- and 17-year-olds for all offenses, except high-level felonies and traffic offenses. Youthful offenders (16- and 17-year-olds) who commit Class A-E felonies would be automatically transferred to adult court upon a finding of probable cause or an indictment, alleviating public safety concerns held by law enforcement officers and prosecutors about violent juvenile offenders.

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Welcome to the NCBA Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section Blog

By Eric Zogry

Welcome to the first installment of the Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section blog!  If you don’t already know, our section is in its 19th year.  We’re a very diverse group, in subject matter (we include experts in child welfare, education, juvenile justice, and mental health), in practitioners (including trial and appellate attorneys, paralegals, judges, and individual and policy advocates), in geography (with participation from the many corners in our state) and lastly, diversity in individuals, as we encourage a community with different backgrounds, cultures and experiences.

This is an especially exciting time to be involved with juvenile justice. The Chief Justice’s Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice has recommended that all 16- and 17-year-olds be processed in the juvenile justice system, while providing for an expedited process for transfer to adult court for only the most serious offenders. Additionally, we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, In re Gault. Gault transformed juvenile delinquency court from an informal, unfair process into a consistent and fair setting for youth to face criminal allegations.

We’re hopeful that this blog will bring our broad community even closer together.  Please let us know if you have an idea, innovation, or opinion you want to share – we’d love to hear from you!


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