YLC Hosts Juvenile Competence Think Tank
Juvenile defenders and advocates from around the state met July 20, 2013, at the Youth Law Center to share ideas and strategies on handling cases involving potential incompetence to stand trial. Incompetence occurs when a child is unable to understand the nature of the proceedings or assist their attorney in defense of the case often because of intellectual disabilities and/or immaturity. The invited guests were all people who have distinguished themselves in this area through litigation, appellate cases and policy work. The group spent a full day exploring ways to improve representation of youth in competence proceedings. Topics included reducing unnecessary detention, dealing with expert issues, “restoration” or remediation services, timelines for resolving cases, using the Porterville Developmental Center, identifying funding to serve incompetent youth, training needs, and policy issues for future development. This meeting is part of Youth Law Center’s long-term efforts to reduce lengthy incarceration of youth who are potentially incompetent, encourage informal resolution of cases whenever possible, and identify funding for services to serve these youth. The Center has also played a significant role in helping to enact laws and court rules governing juvenile incompetence, and in providing professional education to judges, probation officers and defenders on competence issues.