On April 2, 2013, YLC Staff attorney Sue Burrell testified in California’s Senate Public Safety Committee in support of S.B. 166 (Liu). YLC is a co-sponsor of the bill with the California Public Defender’s Association. The bill provides legislative intent language underlining the importance of skilled, well trained lawyers in the increasingly complex area of juvenile delinquency cases. The language addresses the need to address the characteristics of adolescence in the attorney-client relationship and defense of the case; the need for diligent and conscientious advocacy and rational and informed decisions founded on adequate investigation and preparation; and the need for counsel to represent the expressed interests of the youth, meet regularly with the youth, and maintain a confidential relationship with the youth. If enacted, SB 166 would require the Judicial Council to develop training requirements for lawyers appointed to represent youth in delinquency proceedings before they may represent youth in juvenile court. The training would include developments in juvenile delinquency law, child and adolescent development, special education, mental health issues, child abuse and neglect, counsel’s ethical duties, appellate issues, direct and collateral consequences for a minor of court involvement, and securing effective rehabilitative resources.
Youth in California face serious consequences as a result of juvenile court involvement, including school disruption, difficulties applying to college, inability to work in certain professions, incarceration up to age 23, or transfer to adult court, where they may receive up to life imprisonment. Despite the severe potential consequences, YLC’s surveys of delinquency lawyers found that 47% had no delinquency specific training at the time they began representing youth. Attorneys in child welfare cases have long been subject to such training requirements, and S.B. 166 is closely patterned on those requirements.