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.