Representation of Children
The Justice for Children Project, through its faculty and the Justice for Children Practicum, provides direct legal representation of children and their interests.
The Project, primarily through law students enrolled in the Practicum, has filed a number of constitutional challenges on behalf of children. These have included claims that curfew ordinances are an unconstitutional infringement on the liberties of children or an unconstitutional usurpation of state authority by a municipality. Additionally, the Project has argued in certain cases that a child's right to free speech or right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was unconstitutionally infringed.
The Project's clients and case load also illustrate some of the fundamental differences between lawyering in juvenile court and lawyering in adult courts. The juvenile justice system's continued emphasis on rehabilitation gives judges considerable discretion at disposition.
Under Ohio's legal system, for example, this means that even in a misdemeanor case, a minor may be sent to a school, camp, institution or other facility for delinquent children (excepting a commitment to the Department of Youth Services), could be removed from the home and placed in foster care, or committed to the temporary custody of the juvenile court.
Moreover, these sanctions are available in all misdemeanor cases and may not be tied to the minor's previous history of delinquency but to his particular needs as perceived by the court.
Consequently, an overwhelming number of the cases have involved complex dispositional hearings requiring detailed factual investigation and skilled lawyering. Coupled with our belief in an effective lawyering model (that requires ongoing representation of a client in subsequent legal matters involving the same case, like a probation violation, or in new cases), we have handled a number of complex juvenile cases.
Similarly, we have made a commitment to all of our clients to seek expungements of their records as their cases become eligible (zero to two years beyond the client's last court involvement). Many are surprised to learn that juvenile court records are not automatically "confidential" and that juvenile court findings may be used to enhance sentencing in adult court cases. Again, this adds complexity and is, in our minds, an essential part of the good lawyering model we teach to our students.
Because of the Project's limited resources and its overall academic mission, the Justice for Children Project will rarely accept outside referrals and requests for assistance. Please note that the Project does NOT provide legal representation or legal advice to adults. [More information about requesting legal assistance]