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Lessons from Luzerne County: Promoting Fairness, Transparency, and Accountability: Recommendations to the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice

NCJ Number
Date Published
104 pages
This report by the Juvenile Law Center presents a series of reforms following the revelation of unfair court practices by two judges in Lucerne County's (Pennsylvania) juvenile courts.
In October 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the adjudications of delinquency made by one judge in Lucerne County's juvenile courts. A review of State data indicated that almost 50 percent of juveniles who had appeared before the judge were denied benefit of counsel, were adjudicated delinquent - often for minor charges, and sent to out-of-home placements. The data indicate that the process was conducted in this manner solely for the financial benefit of the judge. As a result of these findings, and the findings of the State Supreme Court, the Juvenile Law Center has put forth a set of recommendations to ensure that youth involved with Lucerne County's juvenile justice system are treated fairly and that current State laws are properly followed. This report presents these recommendations under six main topics: 1) Ensuring access to counsel; 2) Instituting Meaningful Appellate Review; 3) Increasing Transparency and Accountability in the Juvenile Justice System; 4) Reducing Referrals to the Juvenile Justice System; 5) Ensuring Respectful and Appropriate Treatment of Youth in Detention or Placement and in Court; and 6) Reducing the Consequences of Juvenile Records. Each chapter contains a set of recommendations aimed at achieving the chapter's broad reform goal within the juvenile justice system, as well as the next steps to be taken for implementing the recommendations. It is hoped that these recommendations will prevent any future mistreatment of juveniles like those that occurred in Lucerne County, PA. Appendixes