On the morning of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision In re Gault, the National Juvenile Defender Center participated in the Juvenile Right to Counsel Meeting, hosted by the Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice. Mary Ann Scali, NJDC’s executive director, joined a panel discussion with colleagues Kim Tandy of the Children’s Law Center in Kentucky, Stephen Bush of the Shelby County Public Defender in Tennessee, and Winsome Gayle and Paul Killebrew of the Department of Justice. The panelists shared how federal support for juvenile defense has vastly improved children’s access to justice in the respective regions in which they work.
In his opening remarks, the Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan R. Hanson of the Office of Justice Programs said, “Our Constitutional guarantees of due process need to be protected, and competent counsel help us realize these fundamental aims of the court system.” The Office of Justice Programs has long supported NJDC’s work to ensure children’s access to high-quality, specialized lawyers, including through the Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative and our regional centers’ efforts to bring training and resources to juvenile defenders. We’re thankful for the generosity and continued partnership of the Office for Access to Justice and the Office of Justice Programs in upholding children’s right to counsel.