Senate Confirmation Rule Dropped for Federal Juvenile Justice Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Juvenile justice advocates are dismayed by a new law that they say threatens to accelerate the fading relevance of juvenile justice reform within the federal government. To the chagrin of many, President Barack Obama has not nominated anyone for the U.S. Senate to confirm as a permanent leader of federal juvenile justice efforts since he took office. For three and a half years, the federal office responsible for setting national policy, sharing research on best practices and funding state initiatives on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention has chugged along on temporary leadership, first under acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski and since January, under acting Administrator Melodee Hanes. If the White House does name a person to fill the long-vacant position – something unlikely to happen soon, advocates say, given a looming presidential election -- such a Senate confirmation will never come. That’s because effective Aug.

Children’s Right to Attorney Not Universal, Washington State High Court Rules

A Washington state Supreme Court ruling Thursday upheld a state law allowing trial judges to appoint attorneys to foster children in cases where a court is considering removal from their family. However, the law does not require children to have an attorney, and the justices ruled 9-0 that the right to an attorney is not universal, according to The Seattle Times. While children have a right to due process, trial judges “have the discretion to decide whether to appoint counsel to children who are subject of dependency or termination proceedings,” the justices wrote in their ruling. "It is the child, not the parent,” the ruling continued, “who may face the daunting challenge of having his or her person put in the custody of the State as a foster child, powerless and voiceless, to be forced to move from one foster home to another.”

Children’s rights advocates were disappointed in the ruling, The Times reports, arguing the ruling departs from other decisions that have upheld children’s universal right to counsel. Still, the ruling notes children would be denied attorneys only in rare cases.

State Laws Fail to Protect Children from Sex Trafficking

Most states aren’t doing enough to curb child sex trafficking according to a new report by the advocacy group Shared Hope International. The study, prepared in partnership with the American Center for Law and Justice, graded all 50 states on the strength of their sex trafficking laws. States that protected minors and prosecuted traffickers received the highest grades. But more than half of states received grades of D or F.

Leading the states with grades of B were Texas, Missouri, Illinois and Washington. All received high marks for criminal provisions addressing demand and protective provisions for child victims.

Georgia ranked near the top as one of only six states receiving a C because of its comprehensive human trafficking law and laws combating commercial exploitation of children.

Georgia Chosen for Study of Legal Representation of Abused Children

More than 100 Georgia attorneys will participate in a four-year study of the legal representation of neglected and abused children. Georgia was chosen as one of two states to be research and demonstration sites for the National Quality Improvement Center on the Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System. The Georgia Supreme Court’s Committee on Justice for Children will administer the study in partnership with the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University and the Georgia Association of Counsel for Children. “Being part of this study provides Georgia a good opportunity to train attorneys to become better advocates for the children of our state,” Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harris P. Hines said. “It is hoped that the training will have a positive impact by lessening the time it takes to safely return children to their parents, or if this cannot be done, to timely find permanent families for Georgia’s foster children.”

The National Quality Improvement Center at the University of Michigan Law School collaborating with the U.S. Children’s Bureau chose Georgia and Washington as the two test sites.

U.S. House of Representatives

House Approps May Gut Spending on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

The House subcommittee that oversees Justice Department funding produced an appropriations bill this week that would slash activities authorized by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in 2012. The draft bill, marked up by the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and State (CJS), would not fund demonstration grants, Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG) or Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Grants. In 2010, the last year Congress actually passed an appropriations package, those three streams totaled $231 million. The bill would also drop state formula grants - given to states on the condition that they adhere to basic standards in regard to the detainment of juveniles, and address racial disparities in the system - from $75 million in 2010 to $40 million. The full appropriations committee will vote on the proposed funding levels for Justice on Wednesday, July 13, according to a memo published by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice on its website.