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Kentucky - Advancing Justice: An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation in Delinquency Proceedings

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2002
77 pages
This study assessed the accessibility and quality of Kentucky's legal defense services for indigent juveniles brought into the juvenile justice system.
In addition to surveys of juvenile judges and indigent defense counsel across the State, nearly 170 juveniles in detention and treatment facilities were interviewed about their experience in the juvenile court system and their experiences with attorneys. Site visits were conducted in a number of juvenile courts, and interviews were conducted with parents of the juveniles, the juveniles, judges, juvenile justice workers, social workers, attorneys, and others involved in case processing. Numerous interviews were conducted with "key stakeholders" with long-term involvement and perspective on juvenile justice issues in the State, including those who were instrumental in reform initiatives over the years. The study found that although average caseloads of indigent juvenile clients had been reduced for trial attorneys statewide, some counties reported juvenile caseloads far in excess of national standards for such caseloads. With few exceptions, most juveniles interviewed had been represented by counsel for the charges that led to their incarceration, but interviews with juveniles and families in the community during site visits found that wavier of counsel was more prevalent among nondetained juveniles. Procedures were insufficient to ensure early access to counsel, and informal adjustments and/or plea agreements were the most frequent disposition. Under various reform efforts, motion practice by defense attorneys has apparently improved, along with postdisposition advocacy; however, there is limited advocacy for case dispositions tailored to the best interests of the juvenile. The assessment identified a number of systemic barriers faced by defense attorneys, local courts, and others in ensuring access to counsel and quality representation for juveniles. Thirteen recommendations are addressed to the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy and its local defender offices, and 6 recommendations directed to State and local agencies encourage working collaboratively to address issues in the juvenile justice system. Other recommendations are addressed to the courts, law schools, media, and State and local bar associations. 112 notes and an appended list of key stakeholders interviewed

Date Published: September 1, 2002