About PJDC

Mission Statement

To promote justice for all youth by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense
and advocating for systemic reforms

Diversity and Inclusion Statement

The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center believes that equity, inclusion and diversity are integral to creating a just juvenile legal system. To that end, PJDC is committed to creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community of juvenile defenders and advocates who fight for the rights of delinquency-involved youth in California. Our training of juvenile defenders is rooted in the belief that all young people should have excellent juvenile representation, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, and socioeconomic class. Our legislative advocacy and amicus work reflect our commitment to correcting discriminatory practices that have led to the prosecution and incarceration of too many young people of color.

The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center also recognizes that poverty, economic inequality, and lack of economic opportunity, often closely tied to issues of race and ethnicity, have a devastating effect on the lives of all children.  Once entangled in the juvenile justice system, children and their families are drawn still deeper into poverty.

To achieve its mission and promote equity, inclusion, and diversity, PJDC is committed to the following principles:

  • PJDC will provide educational and training programs, publications, and policy positions that reflect and respect difference, and address the racial bias and harms of poverty which disproportionately affect virtually all system-involved youth and their families.
  • PJDC’s work will highlight and combat the discriminatory impact of policing and prosecution on youth of color, including African American and Latinx youth
  • PJDC will recruit membership and leadership reflecting the diversity of the youth in the delinquency system and persons who have experienced the effects of poverty first-hand.

PJDC will engage in recruitment practices and retention strategies to achieve a diverse staff and board

What we believe

  • children in the juvenile justice system must be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness;
  • youth must have timely access to competent, properly resourced, and specially trained counsel;
  • youth are fully capable of transformational character changes and true rehabilitation — irrespective of the bad decisions they might have made during adolescence;
  • no youth should be prosecuted as an adult;
  • youth advocates must play an important role in transforming the juvenile justice system; and
  • juvenile defense is a highly-specialized area of the law and indigent defense organizations should cultivate and promote the role of the juvenile defender.

What others are saying about PJDC

I have to give a shout out to…all of you for the incredibly thoughtful, proactive and outstanding support you provide...in service to our most justice-challenged youth. You are advancing best practices, advancing training at a lightning pace and maximizing the chances for justice and decency to prevail. I salute you all…[T]his communication modality should be replicated in every state. Keep your fire ablaze!

-P.F., Los Angeles

PJDC goes a long way in helping good juvenile defense attorneys become great juvenile defense attorneys!

-E. P., Madera

All of the recent changes to the way our system treats juveniles are wonderful, but can be daunting to navigate. When I turn to PJDC with questions, I am confident that I am getting accurate and up-to-date answers that allow me to represent my juvenile clients more effectively.

-L.S., Orange

I prevailed in 2 hearings… because of PJDC. Your training, seminars and research bank helped me determine the strengths and focus in each case. I was also able to secure experts identified through PJDC. The template briefs and research are extremely helpful, as is the regular input on current issues through the PJDC blog. Your help and moral support is invaluable. Keep up the good fight!

-R.W., Kern

PJDC is indispensable in my juvenile public defender practice: practical juvenile focused training (and regional training!), great web resources and briefs, and prompt help for specific problem-solving with other members on the listserv. Everyone involved is friendly and generous with their time, energy and passion for defending the needs and special concerns of our youth. PJDC is a terrific one-stop resource that every attorney, who work with youth, should have in their corner.

-B.H., Butte

In a state with a complicated, convoluted, ever-changing Juvenile Justice system, PJDC helps me find the answers I need to help my clients.

-N.S., Kings

As private defense counsel practicing in several different counties, I rely on the PJDC to assist in consultation, strategy, and expert witness referral for the complex litigations my law firm provides to minors across Southern California. Everyone is very courteous, professional and helpful in their respective areas of expertise. A first-rate organization with a true compassion to help kids.

-E.Y., San Bernardino

PJDC is THE go to source for anyone practicing juvenile law in California. Member resources and the generously shared wisdom of expert and fellow practitioners make PJDC an indispensable asset for California lawyers.

-M.P., Los Angeles

I can attest without a doubt that PJDC is an invaluable resource, rich with information, and whose members readily assist practitioners at the drop of a hat. We recently filed a writ of mandate, followed by a petition for review on an important issue of first impression involving transfer hearings and could not be happier with the assistance we received from PJDC's topic experts up and down the state. If you regularly practice juvenile law, as we do, I cannot fathom how one would feel subject-matter competent without PJDC's resources.

-T.P., El Dorado

I have found the community of dedicated juvenile defenders who are active on PJDC’s listserv to be knowledgeable, thoughtful, and incredibly helpful on a variety of issues ranging from technical to practical. In several instances, fellow PJDC members have made themselves available by phone to discuss case strategy and suggest further resources.

-D.M., Humboldt

PJDC is my go to resource for legal updates in a complex and rapidly changing area of the law. On behalf of the children I represent, we thank you for the great results that we are able to achieve using the knowledge gained from your organization, and the laws that you've helped create.

-D. M., Stanislaus

The Independent Juvenile Program makes extensive use of the wide array of resources and expertise provided by PJDC. Our panel lawyers and staff find it to be an invaluable source for the latest ideas and thinking in juvenile defense.

-M.S., Los Angeles

I would not have achieved the success I did without the support of PJDC. They were invaluable. I relied heavily on the materials they produced to help structure my arguments, understand the changes in the law, and prepare my memorandum of law...PJDC has helped me become a better advocate.

-J.P., Alameda

PJDC gives great juvenile training seminars!

-B. P., Sonoma

Email to PJDC Transfer Team: “… I have been practicing law nearly 40 years and I am rarely impressed by briefs. YOUR WORK IS SPECTACULAR. I am so impressed with what must have been a great deal of effort, legal research, and thought. Your work is stellar. Thank you so much helping all of us and of course, our client.

-L.H., Los Angeles

The PJDC listserv, resources, and trainings have a HUGE impact on my practice. Attorneys across the state give me case-specific advice, encouragement, and resources to fight for my clients. I am so grateful for the education -- and especially the collaboration -- statewide. PJDC helps us rural lawyers stay connected, which helps our youth be successful. Thank you!

-D.G., Tuolomne

“Children who commit crimes lack the moral and psychological underpinnings of adults, but they’re also more resilient, so it is very possible to change. And it is only through rehabilitating such children and youth that we are able to learn how to prevent a similar situation from happening to others.”

— Ishmael Beah, international bestselling author of A Long Way Gone and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Advocate for Children Affected by War, member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division; former child soldier in Sierra Leone

Our partners

Pacific Juvenile Defender Center has benefitted from the recognition, encouragement, and financial support of foundations and fellow charitable nonprofit organizations. We are deeply grateful to the following organizations for their generous support of our mission and our current work:

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