President Obama has named Robert Listenbee, Jr., Chief of the Juvenile Unit at the Defenders Association of Philadelphia, to become the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This is welcome news to those of us who have had the opportunity to work with Bob over the last few years through the National Juvenile Defender Center and MacArthur’s Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network. He will bring to his new position tremendous energy, creativity and a deep understanding of the importance of quality juvenile defense.
The White House announcement on February 1, 2013 included the following biographical sketch for Bob: “Robert Listenbee, Jr. is Chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, a position he has held since 1997. He has also been a trial lawyer at the Defender Association of Philadelphia since 1986. Previously, from 1991 to 1997, Mr. Listenbee was Assistant Chief of the Juvenile Unit. He is a member of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which advises the Governor of Pennsylvania on juvenile justice policy. Mr. Listenbee serves on the policy committees of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and the National Center for Juvenile Justice. He serves on the advisory board of the National Juvenile Defender Center and is a board member and former President of the Juvenile Defenders Association of Pennsylvania. Mr. Listenbee received a B.A. from Harvard University and a J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.”
As for Bob’s goals for the job, in an interview just after being named to the post, Bob said: “… [O]ur standards really should be, “Is this good enough for my kid? Is this the kind of program I would want for my child if my child had difficulties and needed to be in the juvenile justice system? Do I have the kind of high aspirations for these children – not just that they shouldn’t get re-arrested – but that they should have hopes and dreams, that will give them productive lives and have families and kids too? That’s really what I think our system ought to be doing. And that’s the kind of a goal that I think we as practitioners of a system should have. Those are the kinds of caring and compassionate feelings that we should bring to the task.” (Jhumra-Smith, “Robert Listenbee: Q&A with Incoming Federal Juvenile Justice Chief” Youth Today (Feb. 12, 2013).)