This study assessed the accessibility and quality of Ohio's legal representation for indigent juveniles processed in the State's juvenile justice system.
In using the ABA (American Bar Association) protocol for assessing indigent juvenile defense services, the study focused on whether indigent juveniles have access to counsel, the quality of representation, and the structural and other systemic barriers that impede access and quality of defense services for indigent juveniles. A team of trained and experienced attorneys conducted site visits to juvenile courts throughout the State to observe proceedings and interview key participants. The study found that it has become accepted practice for large numbers of poor youth to waive their right to an attorney, even during the most critical stages of case proceedings, without proper monitoring from judges and magistrates. Zealous representation by well-trained defense attorneys is the exception rather than the rule for indigent juveniles in Ohio's juvenile courts. Effective representation is impeded by the State's appointment process and the lack of standardized structure for the funding and delivery of defense services. An overall lack of leadership committed to ensuring the rights of juveniles in the juvenile justice system is pervasive in Ohio. Recommendations are directed to the governor, the legislature, and the judicial branch, as well as local counties and defender organizations, executive-branch agencies, and Ohio law schools and bar associations. Recommendations focus on funding, standards, monitoring, training, and leadership.
Date Published: March 1, 2003