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Of What Use Are Lawyers for Juveniles Offenders?

NCJ Number
Penal Issues Issue: 16 Dated: March 2005 Pages: 12-15
Patricia Benech-Le Roux
Date Published
March 2005
4 pages
This article reviews and analyzes the role of lawyers in juvenile courts for juvenile offenders in France.
Not so long ago, lawyers played a secondary role on the criminal justice scene for juvenile offenders in France. However, the 1990s was seen as a turning point in juvenile justice. Legislators extended the rights of children within the justice system and the rights of their layers in criminal and civil procedures. Prior to this time, lawyers were only compulsory for juveniles during the verdict phase; now, their presence is compulsory throughout the criminal procedure, starting with the first appearance in court. This article describes the lawyer’s work in its legal framework in an attempt to address the questions of: how does the lawyer for juveniles adjust to these changes in the legal, professional and social contexts, how can the actors’ real practices be described, in whose name do lawyers of juvenile defendants speak, and how do they justify their role with respect to the judge and other actors. An analysis was conducted by gathering data through a qualitative survey based on observation of the lawyer’s work during penal hearings and on about 50 semi-directive interviews of lawyers for juveniles and juvenile court judges. The data were collected over a 3-year period, 1997-1999. In answering these questions, three areas were examined and addressed: a working situation under normative constraints, difficulties in defending juveniles, and lawyers gaining a foothold on the juvenile justice scene. In summation, lawyers do much more than the public service of counseling and defending youthful offenders. They contribute to the regulation of the power of professionals, by activating a process of collective control of the work of each actor, including judges, police officers, and gendarmes. They contribute to the overall functioning of the juvenile court as an organization.