What You May Have Missed

With the academic year now in full swing at the law school where I teach, I’ve been swamped — classes, juvenile court appearances, faculty meetings (!), etc.

In reflecting back on the past week or so, I’ve found a bunch of items that may be of interest.

I’ve linked to most of them via the blog’s Facebook page; what follows is a sampling:

  • The National Geographic Channel focuses on that strange and exotic animal — the public defender — in its new series, “And Justice for All.”  I have yet to watch an entire episode (the fact that it’s produced by the folks who gave us such classics as “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Parking Wars” has given me pause), but the description sounds interesting:

Lives and the future of entire families hang in the balance as our legal system tries to mete out justice for all. Founded on unprecedented access to Brooklyn’s Legal Aid Society, in every case the very freedom of an often-innocent client is at stake. These lawyers are overworked, underpaid, dedicated, and tireless advocates–fighting tough battles in the hopes of achieving justice for their clients.

I’m not sure how realistic the show is, given that the clients featured are “often-innocent,” but there are some entertaining scenes, such as this one where a young PD in a rumpled suit climbs up a fire escape ladder to prove his point during an investigation:

  • Check out Gideon’s recent blog post on children as the “forgotten sector of the criminal justice system,” which begins as follows:

The classic strawman, the underlying justification for any legislation appearing to be tough on crime, the go-to argument for riling up mobs in your favor is to implore people to, please, think of the children.

The “children” at issue are not just any children: they’re your children and mine, those sweet innocent babes who just want to eat ice cream and roll in the mud and take cute pictures with the family dog. Those naive children whom we must protect at all costs from the dangerous monsters that lurk around the corner and wait in shadows. Unless, of course, these children commit crimes themselves, in which case we do think of them: we think of them as juveniles. One day, they’re the future of the nation, the next they’re shackled in the back of a prison van, drenched in their newly acquired status as irredeemable delinquents, the scourge of society.

If you’re not already a subscriber to this Connecticut public defender’s insightful and instructive blog (and hilarious Twitter feed), I recommend it.

  • In an important decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in State in the Interest of V.A. that a prosecutor’s decision to seek transfer of a youth from juvenile to adult criminal court must be reviewed under an “abuse of discretion” standard, rather than the more rigorous standard of  “gross and patent abuse of discretion.”  This lessens the burden for juveniles challenging transfer decisions and directs prosecutors to demonstrate that transfer will deter future crime in each individual case.
  • In a noteworthy decision, the Illinois Supreme Court held in In re Austin M. that lawyers defending kids in juvenile delinquency court must be guided by the child’s “express interest” and not by their own views of what is in their client’s ”best interest,” similar to a guardian ad litem.  In no uncertain terms, the court held that such “hybrid representation,” in which the child’s lawyer’s blends defending with truth seeking, is both morally and constitutionally wrong.

SPLC Deputy Legal Director /Director of Juvenile Justice Advocacy
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit legal and educational organization, seeks an experienced attorney to lead our juvenile justice advocacy throughout the South.

The Law Center was founded in 1971. Its mission is the advancement and protection of the rights of minorities, the poor, and victims of injustice in significant civil rights and social justice matters. Recent cases include class action litigation in the areas of education, immigrants’ rights, juvenile justice, and prison conditions. Our juvenile justice work is focused on systemic reform of the juvenile justice systems in several states in the South. Our focus is reducing imprisonment, ending the practice of trying children as adults and increasing community based investments.

The Director will be expected to offer a strong strategic vision of the work, work collaboratively with our juvenile justice staff (based in New Orleans, La; Jackson, MS; Miami, Fl; and Montgomery, Al); manage SPLC’s juvenile justice litigation and policy docket; and serve as the public face of the project. The Director will help the project develop multifaceted campaigns–which may include complex federal court litigation, policy work, community organizing, and communications efforts–to achieve our strategic goals. Depending on the candidate, this position may also lead our adult prison work. Substantial travel will be required.

Applicants should have a strong commitment to juvenile justice, excellent writing skills, and at least ten years experience of relevant litigation and/or policy advocacy.

Ideally, this position will be based in our central office in Montgomery, Alabama, but we will consider having the right person work in one of our other offices. SPLC will pay reasonable relocation costs. We offer compensation that is above-average for public interest jobs, depending upon experience, and excellent benefits.

Please apply by submitting your cover letter, with salary requirements, and resume as one document to:


The Southern Poverty Law Center is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, or status with regard to public assistance. 

  • Locked Up Without a Key in New Orleans, by Karen Houppert in The Nation profiles the dismal state of indigent defense in this city, where public defenders are out-staffed and out-funded by prosecutors and hundreds of indigent defendants sit for months in the over-crowded Orleans Parish Prison waiting for appointment of counsel.  

Thoughts?  Reactions?  Other noteworthy news, court decisions, or reporting that I missed?  Please share in the comments.

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About Tamar Birckhead

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