The right to counsel in juvenile court: The conundrum of attorneys as an aggravating factor at disposition

Barry C Feld, Shelly Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

In re Gault provided procedural safeguards in juvenile courts, including the right to counsel. Decades later, judges continue to resist appointing lawyers. And, when they do appoint counsel, lawyers appear to be an aggravating factor when judges sentence youths. In 1995, Minnesota enacted law reforms, including mandatory appointment of counsel. As a cost-saving strategy, the law also converted most misdemeanors into status offenses and restricted judges' sentencing authority in order to deny juveniles a right to counsel. This study compares how juvenile courts processed 30,270 youths in 1994-the year before the changes-with how they processed 39,369 youths in 1999 after the amendments. We assess changes in appointment of counsel and their impact on sentencing practices. We report inconsistent judicial compliance with the mandate to appoint counsel and a positive decrease in the number of youths removed from home.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-741
Number of pages29
JournalJustice Quarterly
Volume27
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

Keywords

  • Juvenile courts
  • Law reform
  • Right to counsel
  • Status offenses

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