Midyear Meeting

ABA resolution backs access to effective appellate representation for juveniles

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Juveniles in delinquency cases, including juveniles who qualify for public defender services, should have access to effective appellate representation, according to a resolution approved by the ABA House of Delegates on Monday.

Resolution 103A says juveniles should have access to appeals consistent with state statutes and state constitutional provisions. A report accompanying the resolution cites “a dramatic lack of appeals” in juvenile cases; there are just five appeals per 1,000 juvenile delinquency convictions.

“The historical lack of rigor in juvenile appellate practice, combined with the recent data documenting the low rate of appeal, demonstrate entrenched practices against the filing of juvenile appeals and present compelling reasons to revisit and advocate for states to strengthen appellate practice on behalf of juveniles,” the report says.

The resolution has four recommendations for governmental bodies regarding juvenile appellate representation. They are:

1) Training should be provided to judges and attorneys to recognize that, in juvenile representation, control and direction of the case is the same as for a criminal defendant.

2) Adequate resources should be provided so that juveniles, including those qualifying for public defender services, have access to effective appellate representation.

3) Appellate review should occur within the time frame that the juvenile is completing the court-ordered disposition.

4) Data on juvenile appeals should be collected to identify possible geographic disparities and institutional barriers to appellate representation.

The report identifies three states that have identified and acted on structural problems that may contribute to low rates of appeal. In Florida, safeguards have been strengthened against juvenile waiver of counsel. Ohio reallocated funding for its juvenile division, leading to improved defense representation for juveniles. And Illinois created a new rule allowing expedited appeals for juvenile delinquency cases.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. to rewrite lead for clarity.

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