Lawmakers Advance Georgia Juvenile Code Despite Funding Concerns

The proposed overhaul of Georgia’s juvenile justice and child protection laws cleared another hurdle Wednesday, even as local governments continued to fret about the potential financial burden. The bill, five years in the making, would update Georgia’s juvenile code for the first time in 40 years, modernizing procedures and treatments for handling abused, neglected and delinquent children. The state Senate Judiciary Committee recommended passage of a House version of the bill Wednesday afternoon on a unanimous vote. In endorsing the House legislation, the senators agreed that the state’s financially troubled Georgia Public Defender Standards Council should continue to make sure indigent juveniles facing detention have a lawyer. An earlier Senate version of the bill would still have guaranteed attorneys for those youths but would not have made the council responsible.

Georgia Juvenile Code Overhaul Clears State House

After five years of work, a 243-page overhaul of Georgia’s juvenile code passed the state House of Representatives unanimously on Wednesday. The bill — endorsed by judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, state agencies and child advocates across Georgia — now moves to the Georgia Senate. House Bill 641 creates a broad array of programs for neglected children and for children who leave the foster-care system at age 18; strengthens protections for children in juvenile court; clarifies when the state may remove a child from home or seek to terminate parental rights; and adopts best practices from across the country for handling deprivation and delinquency cases. “People will quite often address us as elected House members and say, ‘Why do you do that? Why do you run for office?”

ga state house square

New Georgia Juvenile Code Advancing in State Legislature


A long-planned overhaul of Georgia’s juvenile justice code got its first official nod of approval Wednesday, but backers still haven’t figured out how to pay for it. An estimated $15 million price tag is attached to the proposed Child Protection and Public Safety Act, sponsored by state Senate Judiciary Chairman Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton), whose committee gave the bill a “do-pass” without dissent. Gov. Nathan Deal did not include that cost in the coming year’s budget so, Hamrick said, supporters pushed the effective date of the bill back a year — to July 2013 — to buy the time to find funding for it. “We have got to work on that with the House and the governor,” Hamrick said. Some government agencies were objecting to taking on new programs that they couldn’t pay for, he said, “so now it really seems to be how are we going to fund it.”

Kirsten Widner

Support Proposed Revision of Georgia Juvenile Code

We are deeply saddened by Judge Rodatus’ op-ed on the juvenile code rewrite project and his views about the process that has been used to refine the Child Protection and Public Safety Act, which in its most current form is House Bill 641. His remarks do not reflect the wider community of juvenile court professionals. We appreciate the opportunity to provide some important clarifications and corrections. The Original Proposed Model Code

Judge Rodatus correctly notes that this project began with work of the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of the State Bar of Georgia on a Proposed Model Code (PMC) for Georgia. However, the circumstances of the PMC were very different from what he describes.