General Resources
The following general resources provide a wealth of information on many aspects of juvenile indigent defense, and so are not repeated under specific topics below.

    • See A Call for Justice for the groundbreaking 1995 national assessment by the American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center, Juvenile Law Center and Youth Law Center, that found that youth in many places had limited access to counsel and were in general represented very poorly.
    • Go here for more recent assessments conducted by the National Juvenile Defender Center in 22 states and a number of cities and counties on access to counsel and quality of representation in delinquency proceedings.
    • The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges published juvenile delinquency guidelines in 2005 that provide a thorough look at best practices in juvenile indigent defense through the eyes of the judiciary.
    • This Models for Change publication details indigent defense reforms instituted in Pennsylvania; this National Juvenile Justice Network publication draws on the Models for Change piece and many other resources to discuss “Seven Ways to Improve Juvenile Indigent Defense.
    • See “Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report” by the National Center for Juvenile Justice for a description of landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases since the 1960s that had a major impact on the juvenile indigent defense and on the character and procedures of state juvenile justice systems. This report also describes and provides data on the different mechanisms states and localities have for providing juvenile indigent defense services.
    • The goal for Defend Children: A Blueprint for Effective Juvenile Defender Services is rooted in the United States Constitution: to ensure the right to counsel is fulfilled for every child.

Right to Counsel
Appointment of Counsel

    • Some of the major obstacles and inequities that continue to persist in the implementation of the right to counsel in juvenile courts are discussed in this article by Katayoon Majd and Patricia Puritz; and this article by Marsha Levick and Neha Desai.
    • Research on videotaped interrogations of teenagers has led some to conclude that youth should have counsel during interrogations, as discussed in this New York Times story, “In Interrogations, Teenagers Are Too Young to Know Better.”

Indigency and Waiver of Counsel

    • The Luzerne County “kids-for-cash” scandal revealed serious deficiencies in Pennsylvania’s system for appointing counsel to youth. The scope of the problem and recommendations for reform are detailed here. For further information and recommendations for reform, see the Juvenile Law Center webpage on this topic; and see in particular, Lessons from Luzerne County.
    • For information on indigence determinations, waivers of counsel, and other challenges for youth in obtaining court-appointed counsel, see this publication by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
    • For background on the long-standing practice of permitting juveniles to waive their right to counsel, see this article by Mary E. Berkheiser, which challenges this practice due to the developmental immaturity of youth, making it difficult for them to have the requisite understanding of their legal rights necessary for an effective waiver.

Post-dispositional Advocacy

    • For further information on the importance of post-dispositional advocacy in juvenile defense see this article by Sandra Simkins.


    • The National Juvenile Defender Center recently published National Juvenile Defense Standards, which include standards for the best practices in the representation of juveniles as well as detailed commentary discussing their rationale.
    • The Institute of Judicial Administration, together with the American Bar Association, developed a 20-volume set of juvenile justice standards in the 1970s that were condensed into a one-volume publication in 1996.  In 1979, the ABA adopted as policy the Standards Relating to Counsel for Private Parties.
    • Don’t miss these 10 principles for quality delinquency representation through public defense systems, developed by the National Juvenile Defender Center and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.
    • Why are national and state juvenile delinquency practice standards important? See this article by Laura Cohen, which lists a number of jurisdictions that have adopted practice standards through different mechanisms.
    • Several states and jurisdictions have established local practice standards for juvenile defense attorneys. Here are examples from Florida and Pennsylvania.
    • Supreme court opinion on the constitutional principle that ‘children are different’ for the purposes of criminal punishment.

Providing Sufficient Resources and Tools for Juvenile Defense

    • Juvenile defense attorneys have received dismal compensation, carried overwhelming caseloads, and suffered a lack of professional resources for years. For detail, see this publication from OJJDP as well as this article by Majd and Puritz. For a more general description of the problems that continue to plague indigent defense systems serving adults and juveniles throughout the country, see Gideon’s Broken Promise, by the American Bar Association.
    • For recommendations on public defender and assigned counsel caseload standards and the challenges that have been posed by excessive workloads, see this information from the American Bar Association.

Training Resources

Family Engagement


For Further Information . . .

To learn more about juvenile defense, including the National Juvenile Defense Standards, as well as opportunities for training and technical assistance, visit the National Juvenile Defender Center Resource Center Partnership website.

For resources on juvenile defense and a broad range of other juvenile justice issues, visit the Models for Change website section on juvenile indigent defense: