PJDC Board Member Sue Burrell Receives ABA Livingston Hall Award

Each year, the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section selects one recipient for its Livingston Hall Award for juvenile justice advocacy.   This year’s recipient is long time PJDC Board Member and Youth Law Center Staff Attorney, Sue Burrell.  Here is the press release sent out by the Youth Law Center on the occasion of the Livingston Hall Award:

ABA Announces Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award To be Presented

 to Youth Law Center Staff Attorney Sue Burrell

The American Bar Association has announced that its 2011 Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award recipient is Sue Burrell, Staff Attorney at the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center.  The Award is given to someone who makes positive contributions to the field both in and outside the courtroom. The recipient must demonstrate a high degree of skill, commitment, and professionalism in representing their young clients, positively and significantly contributing to the field and the rights and interests of the children they serve.  Jay Elliott, a practicing attorney in South Carolina and chair of the awards committee said, “The Livingston Hall award is given to those unsung and selfless heroes who advocate forcefully for children and advance their interests, in court and out.  Sue Burrell personifies the reason this award was created by the American Bar Association.”

Ms. Burrell’s three decade devotion to juvenile justice advocacy had its roots in her first career as a children’s librarian.  Her legal career was launched in the mid-1970’s when she entered law school and began representing children through Loyola Law School’s juvenile law clinic.  After law school, she honed her skills as an appellate attorney for the California Office of the State Public Defender.  In 1980, she joined the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office and was assigned to represent children in delinquency cases in South Central Los Angeles.  This experience brought her face-to-face with  themes that have resonated throughout her career – the impact of racial and economic disparities on justice system involvement, the damaging impact of unnecessary incarceration, the importance of strong legal representation, and the need for juvenile advocates to be involved in policy efforts to improve services to youth and their families.  After several years of trial practice, Ms Burrell became the juvenile appellate and training lawyer for the Office, handling cases in the California appellate courts, training lawyers newly assigned to the juvenile division, and creating a compendium of juvenile delinquency law (“The Dog Book”) that is still updated and published every year. 

            In 1987, Ms. Burrell joined the Youth Law Center, and almost immediately became involved in litigation over inadequate conditions in juvenile facilities.  Significant cases that Ms. Burrell has been involved in include:   Nick O. v. Terhune (which mandated  that the California Youth Authority provide special education services to youth in its care); E.R. v, McDonnell (which resulted in improved conditions and educational services for youth at the Gilliam Youth Services Center, Denver); Wilber v. Warner (which forced the California Youth Authority to provide licensed inpatient mental health and medical care to youth needing 24 hour care); and L.H. v. Schwarzenegger (which recognized the right to counsel and due process protections for California Division of Juvenile Justice wards in parole revocation proceedings) .  At the Youth law Center, Ms. Burrell’s work also expanded to include legislative advocacy, consulting with public officials, providing individual advocacy to families and youth, and writing dozens of articles and training materials on juvenile justice issues. Over the past 24 years, these efforts have enabled her to have a significant role in shaping California juvenile justice. 

Ms. Burrell was among the first advocates to speak out against unconstitutional conditions in California’s state level juvenile facilities.  Since the late 1980’s, she has worked for a better system through legislative hearings, budget advocacy, education of juvenile justice system professionals, and litigation.  She was a member of the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Working Group, and for many years has been involved in helping to revise juvenile facility regulations for California.  She has served on advisory groups for The California Endowment’s Healthy Returns and Building healthy Communities initiatives, the Van Loben Sels/Rembe Rock juvenile advocacy roundtable, and on the boards of Loyola Law School’s Center for Juvenile Law & Policy; the First District Appellate Project, and the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center.

Ms. Burrell’s work also has had a national reach.  She has written and consulted for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and has advocated on important federal policy issues.  Since the early 1990’s, she has worked as a consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, training juvenile professionals from dozens of jurisdictions, developing juvenile facility standards, and writing extensively on improving facility conditions, and reducing the use of restraints.  She leads a team of California advocates in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network aimed at improving the quality of juvenile delinquency representation.  Working with the National Juvenile Defender Center, this effort has had an important impact on the standard of practice in jurisdictions around the country. 

In response learning about the Livingston Hall award, Ms. Burrell expressed excitement and gratitude.  “I have been fortunate throughout my career to have great people to learn from and to work with, plus the freedom to act in accordance with my highest values.  It is difficult to think of any more worthwhile way to spend my life than in improving likelihood of successful outcomes for young people in the juvenile justice system.”

The award will be presented August 5, 2011 at the American Bar Association meeting in Toronto, canada.   Bingham McCutchen LLP will be holding a reception in Ms. Burrell’s honor on August 24, 2011 at their San Francisco offices. 

 The Youth Law Center (YLC) is a public interest law firm whose mission is to end abuse and maltreatment of children in the nation’s foster care and justice systems, and to ensure that they are connected to families and communities. The Center advocates through public education, policy advocacy, training, technical assistance, and litigation to ensure that children in state custody live free of abuse and dangerous conditions, are treated fairly and not subjected to discrimination, and receive the support and services they need to become healthy and productive adults.