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Right to Counsel in Juvenile Court: Law Reform to Deliver Legal Services and Reduce Justice by Geography

NCJ Number
Criminology and Public Policy Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2010 Pages: 327-356
Barry C. Feld; Shelly Schaefer
Date Published
May 2010
30 pages
This study examined law reforms in Minnesota to improve the delivery of legal services in juvenile courts.
Results show inconsistent judicial compliance with the mandate to appoint counsel. Despite legislative efforts to increase representation of youths charged with felonies, the statewide rate at which counsel appeared remained essentially unchanged. The judicial noncompliance suggests a high level of organizational maintenance and stability in courtroom workgroups as well as an adaptive strategy to handle cases efficiency and limit costs. The 1995 law reforms produced a mixed and somewhat disappointing impact on the appointment of counsel. Both in 1994 and 1999, the data presented describe predictable factors associated with appointment of counsel; youths who are younger, male, charged with felonies, and with more extensive prior records are more likely to have lawyers than are youths who do not share those characteristics. Data were collected from all delinquency and status offense petitions filed in 1994, the year before the law changed, and in 1999, after the statutory change, to allow a period for the juvenile courts to implement the reforms. Tables, figure, and references