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Pacific Juvenile Defender Center

Pacific Juvenile Defender Center
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“The child requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him.”

— In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967) 


PJDC members are involved in a variety of projects to promote best practices in juvenile defense throughout California. These projects include the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network, an Amicus Committee, a group of attorney subject matter experts, a juvenile defender listserv, policy development, trainings and publications, and a web-based resource center.

MacArthur Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN)

In 2008, California was selected by the the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as one of four sites in the nation to participate in the foundation’s Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN).  The four JIDAN sites, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey and California, join the four MacArthur Models for Change “core” states of Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Washington to form an eight-state network.

The California team is led by the Youth Law Center, and includes members from the Center for Families, Children and the Courts of the California Administrative Office of the Courts; the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law & Policy; the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office; the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office; the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office; and Human Rights Watch.

The eight-state network is coordinated through the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), and engages juvenile defenders, policymakers, judges and other key stakeholders in designing strategies to improve juvenile indigent defense policy and practice. California was chosen as a result of its demonstrated ability to achieve measurable reform on juvenile indigent defense issues.  California’s JIDAN work will be centered in the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center.

Amicus Committee

The PJDC Amicus Committee, comprised of California trial counsel, appellate counsel, law faculty, and juvenile advocates, collaborates on issues of critical importance to California juvenile defenders.  The Committee tracks juvenile case law developments and coordinates defense efforts concerning juvenile justice legal and policy issues of broad importance to California defenders.  In cases of particular interest, the Committee files amicus briefs as well as requests for publication, depublication, and review.  The Committee’s amicus work is often prepared in collaboration with national organizations and defenders in other states.  The Committee also monitors pending legislation and policy issues, coordinates opposition or support when needed, and provides a forum for discussing legislative and policy issues needing attention.

The Committee filed an amicus brief in the California Supreme Court in People v. Nguyen, a case challenging the constitutionality of California’s use of juvenile adjudications as “strikes” (sentencing enhancements for priors) given that minors do not have the right to a jury trial.  The brief was co-authored with the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.  The Committee collaborated with the National Juvenile Defender Center in submitting an amicus curiae brief to the California Supreme Court in People v. Lessie, asserting Miranda violations in the admission of a juvenile confession obtained after the juvenile asked to call his father.  The Committee has also focused its attention on reform of the California Division of Juvenile Justice (CYA); preservation of the Juvenile Court Purpose Clause; establishment of practice standards for juvenile defenders; and post-disposition representation.

Download PJDC’s Nguyen amicus brief.

Attorney Subject Matter Experts

PJDC offers subject matter and appellate experts who provide trial support to Members either through the defender listserv or on an individual basis by telephone or electronic mail.  It is composed of practitioners who have distinguished themselves in particular subject matter areas or in appellate practice.  Based on the requests received, Expert Group practitioners work closely with the Training and Publications Committee to ensure that the PJDC Resource Bank has needed support materials.  The Expert Group also takes responsibility for carrying out specific tasks set forth in the MacArthur JIDAN initiative with respect to providing expert and appellate support to PJDC Members.

Training and Publications

PJDC’s Training and Publications Committee is responsible for developing and implementing PJDC’s juvenile training curriculum, including large-scale conferences, targeted small group trainings, web- and phone-based trainings, and print publications.  The Committee’s work is delivered through a series of subcommittees.

The Statewide Training Coordination and Development Subcommittee develops PJDC’s conference and training curricula in collaboration with other California juvenile training  providers, including California Public Defenders’ Association, the juvenile unit of the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law & Policy, and the Center for Families, Children and the Courts.  The Subcommittee is set up to address the need for statewide conferences as well as smaller, targeted training on specific topics or for attorneys in defined geographic areas.  The Subcommittee is working on development of a multi-day annual Juvenile Defender Training Academy for attorneys new to delinquency court practice.  The Subcommittee will develop a series of one-hour MCLE-certified trainings on discrete juvenile defense topics that will be delivered by telephone and other media on a monthly basis.

The Appellate Subcommittee works to improve the skill set of juvenile trial lawyers as it relates to making a record, preserving issues for appeal, working with appellate counsel, and general knowledge of appellate practice and procedure; work also focuses on improving the quality of appellate advocacy in juvenile appeals.  The Subcommittee works with other members of the Training and Publications Committee to develop materials and presentations focused on these issues.

Web-Based Resource Center

PJDC operates an extensive Web-Based Resource Center for members.  The Resource Center offers a complete directory of PJDC members around the state; trial practice materials, including sample motions and briefs; materials on representing youth in specific kinds of cases or on particular issues (including transfer to adult court, sex offenses, homicides, gang cases, competence/mental health, immigration, and post-disposition issues); policy reports and national studies; opinions in significant juvenile law cases; materials on advocacy in relation to institutional conditions and treatment; and conference training materials.

Juvenile Defender Listserv

PJDC’s member listserv provides an active forum for juvenile defenders and advocates throughout California to post queries and share ideas, experiences and knowledge about a broad array of juvenile justice topics.  The listserv provides a vehicle for prompt trial support, announcements, and updates on cases and legislative developments.

Policy Development

PJDC members develop and comment on proposed changes in state and federal juvenile justice policy; participate in informational legislative hearings; serve on multi-agency task forces; work with staff from the Center for Families, Children and the Courts on policy issues; and engage in policy work with the National Juvenile Defender Center and other advocacy organizations.