March 6, 2009

YLC Awarded Attorney Fees in L.H. v. Schwarzenegger

U.S. District Court Judge Karlton recognized the Youth Law Center and its co-counsel for their outstanding work in L.H. v. Schwarzenegger, in the attorneys’ fee award order he wrote today:

“The resumes of both of the Youth Law Center attorneys demonstrate experience in litigation on behalf of juveniles…the quality of representation by plaintiffs’ counsel throughout the suit was exceedingly high.  All of the plaintiffs’ briefs on every substantive motion before the court were thorough, well-written, and accurately addressed the relevant law, attributes which suggest a great deal of preparation.”

“The plaintiffs succeeded on several important motions before the court, including that for class certification and for partial summary judgment on one of the central issues. These victories undoubtedly led the plaintiffs to the exceptional results they ultimately obtained, which was the injunctive relief they had sought in filing suit.  This relief is not only exceptional because it represents a vindication of the rights of their clients, but because it may serve as an exemplar for others as ‘the most comprehensive and important victory of this kind in the United States.'”

The suit, filed in 2006, charged that lengthy parole holds were routinely imposed without proper or timely notice to the juveniles of the reasons for the detention and that juvenile parolees were not informed of the precise charges against them until they had been in custody for weeks or months, and often the charges would change late in the process. The suit also charged that in the vast majority of revocations, DJJ denied juveniles the right to have witnesses testify on their behalf, to present evidence to defend or mitigate the charges, or to have an attorney.

Elements of the 2008 settlement included:

• Attorneys will be appointed for every juvenile parolee who has been charged with a violation of parole within 8 business days of the parole hold.
• Juveniles will receive a preliminary probable cause hearing within 13 business days of the parole hold.
• If there is probable cause to hold the youth, the juveniles will receive a full revocation hearing within 35 calendar days of the parole hold.
• Juveniles will have the right to present evidence and witnesses at their probable cause and revocation hearings.
• Clear policies will be developed that spell out which behavior warrants revocation of parole or a return to a DJJ facility.
• Youth who are not revoked will be released promptly and DJJ will end a policy of “temporary detention” for youth continued on parole.
• Juveniles cannot be returned to DJJ for more than a year, and a revocation cannot be extended beyond a year, except for cases of serious in-custody misconduct.
• Accommodations for mental and physical disabilities and for effective communications, including language translation for non-English speakers, will be provided at all stages of the parole revocation process.
• Youth will no longer be automatically shackled during revocation proceedings and policies will be developed to govern when and how a youth is restrained.
• A prompt administrative appeal system that includes the appointment of attorneys.