California State Sen. Carol Liu has asked Professor Maureen Pacheco, assistant director of Loyola's Center for Juvenile Law and Policy, to testify before the California State Senate Public Safety Committee on pending bill SB 988, which Pacheco helped draft. The proposed bill specifies that any person younger than 18 years of age who is represented by counsel as a ward of the court is entitled to competent counsel. The bill would require mandatory training for attorneys who represent minors in wardship.
All posts by Maureen Pacheco
December 1, 2011
This op-ed was originally published in the Nov. 28 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal.
As a former public defender and current clinical director of the delinquency clinic at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, I've seen far too many children charged with crimes. It is especially heartbreaking when I see young people whose poor behavior can be traced back, in part, to a dependency system that failed to meet their needs.
I want nothing more than to strengthen the dependency system and improve outcomes for young people who deserve our protection and support. Unfortunately, a proposed blanket order from Los Angeles Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash to presumptively open juvenile dependency court proceedings - hearings for foster children and youth - to the public and the media would do more harm than good.
That's the conclusion legislators reached earlier this year, when they listened to youth and attorneys for both children and families and squarely rejected a bill to presumptively open dependency courts. Yet Judge Nash is moving forward with an order that circumvents the legislative process, contradicts current law, and disregards the youths' desire for privacy.
Youth have put forward an alternative that would both protect them and accomplish the goal of opening the system to greater analysis: allow the youth or his attorney to "opt out" of the automatic opening of a public hearing. Judge Nash should listen to the youth and adopt this alternative, or scrap his damaging blanket order.
As currently written, the order will not improve the dependency system that serves foster youth. Instead, the order risks re-traumatizing youth who have already been through the worst by making public the most intimate details of their lives, at the most difficult times in their lives.
November 1, 2011
By Associate Clinical Professor Maureen Pacheco, assistant director of Loyola's Center for Juvenile Law and Policy
In People v. Caballero, the California Supreme Court will soon be determining whether a 16-year-old boy with schizophrenia may be sentenced to 110-years-to life for three counts of attempted murder. Rodrigo Caballero would not be eligible for parole until 2212, when he would be 122 years old. Advocates from around the country joined in an amicus brief filed on October 28, 2011, urging the Court to find that this "functional equivalent" of life without parole is precisely the sentence prohibited by Graham v. Florida (2010) 130 S. Ct. 2011. In Graham, the United States Supreme Court ruled that juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life without a meaningful and realistic opportunity for re-entry into society prior to the expiration of their sentence for non-homicide offenses. As Justice Kennedy wrote so eloquently,
The juvenile should not be deprived of the opportunity to achieve maturity of judgment and self-recognition of human worth and potential. . . . Life in prison without the possibility of parole gives no chance for fulfillment outside prison walls, no chance for reconciliation with society, no hope.