From 2008 to 2012, the Youth Law Center led a team of California advocates as part of the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network, (JIDAN), a project of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. California was one of four states chosen to participate in its Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN) part of the Foundation’s broader Models for Change Initiative. With sister teams in Florida, New Jersey and Massachusetts, the California team developed a multi-year strategy to improve the capacity of juvenile defense counsel to provide quality legal representation.
In California, juvenile defense is county based, so there is no statewide entity to provide training or support, and many lawyers work in small offices or isolated situations where they have little support. Thus, YLC and the California JIDAN team worked to develop a statewide juvenile defense community, using the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center (PJDC) as its centerpoint. Through the efforts of YLC and the team, PJDC quadrupled its membership in four years, and brought in members from small or rural counties and non-traditional defender offices. Through YLC and the team, PJDC developed a web site with a resource bank, a statewide membership roster, a listserv for ongoing trial support, and amicus and appellate committee that provides legislative and appellate support, and a training and publications committee. YLC also oversaw the incorporation of PJDC as a non-profit corporation, and adoption of an organizational infrastructure.
Working through JIDAN, YLC and the team have made significant policy advances.
- Helping to enact a state law governing juvenile competence to stand trial and a court rule on evaluation of youth for competence.
- Conducting a statewide survey of juvenile defenders on resource and training needs.
- Performing a groundbreaking analysis of contracts for appointed counsel in delinquency cases and authoring a pioneering law review, “Contracts for Appointed Counsel in Juvenile Delinquency Cases: Defining Expectations“.
- Sponsoring the first ever National Institute for Trial Advocacy trial skills training for California delinquency attorneys.
- Designing, writing and producing Collateral Consequences of Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings in California: A Handbook for Juvenile Law Practitioners, published by the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center in 2011 (edited by Sue Burrell and Rourke F. Stacy).
- Serving as consultants in the development of National Juvenile Defender Center practice standards.
YLC and the California team continue to coordinate work on these issues with JIDAN colleagues in other states and the National Juvenile Defender Center. The California project team represents an unprecedented collaboration between the Administrative Office of the Courts’ Center for Families, Children and the Courts; the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center; the Youth Law Center; the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy; the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office; the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office; and Human Rights Watch.