This study assessed access to legal counsel and the quality of legal representation for indigent juveniles in Maine's juvenile justice system.
The American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center, in collaboration with the New England Juvenile Defender Center, convened a team of national experts who worked with local juvenile defense attorneys to assess access to counsel and the quality of representation in Maine's juvenile justice system. Team members visited six counties that represented a cross-section of metropolitan and rural areas. In each county, team members observed court proceedings and conducted interviews with judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and juvenile community corrections officers. Team members visited the State's two juvenile detention facilities. Although the investigative team observed and interviewed many devoted and skilled attorneys who provide quality legal services to juveniles in spite of the many impediments, this type of legal representation for indigent juveniles is not widespread. Generally, the quality of legal representation for juveniles in Maine is inconsistent due to a lack of statewide supports that would serve to increase the professional caliber of defense attorneys in juvenile cases. There is little training for the juvenile defense bar, and there are serious deficiencies in the resources available to defense attorneys in preparing juveniles' cases. High-quality, well-resourced defense attorneys for juveniles are required to ensure not only that juveniles are treated fairly in the system but that the juvenile justice system meets its mandate to provide the rehabilitative services needed by their clients. Fifteen recommendations are directed to the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of Maine's government, as well as leaders in the State and local bar associations. One of the recommendations is to create, empower, and support a Maine Commission on Juvenile Justice for the purpose of studying, promoting, and ensuring quality representation for juveniles in the State's juvenile justice system. Appended IJA/ABA standards relating to counsel for private parties and 150 notes
Date Published: October 1, 2003