Georgia’s Juvenile Judges Face Uncertain Situation as Compact Expires

Beginning July 1, Georgia’s juvenile court judges will face a new, unprecedented set of challenges.  That’s the first day Georgia will no longer operate under an agreement that allows for the transfer of delinquent juveniles and runaways between the states. Georgia is the only state in the nation that has not already adopted or is not set to adopt the Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ), an update of a previous compact established in 1955.  Currently, Georgia functions under the 1955 compact.  The Interstate Commission for Juveniles, the governing body of the ICJ, gave Georgia three extensions to pass legislation so the state could enter the new compact (in 2008, 2009 and 2010).  Since the Legislature failed to enact the needed legislation in 2011, Georgia will not be given any more extensions, officials at the compact say. The compact provides a framework that allows the seamless transition of juveniles from one state to another.  Without the compact, Georgia’s juvenile judges are left “scratching their heads,” Judge Mary Carden, a juvenile judge in the state, said.  “Nobody knows what’s going to happen.”

When asked if individual agreements between judges in neighboring states could be worked out, Judge Carden said, “I don’t think that’s realistic.”

“The numbers to deal with are great,” she said.  “It will take an inordinate amount of time and effort.”

Judges face enormous workloads, she said.  “It’s very difficult for me to get in touch with judges in other courts.”

The Interstate Commission for Juveniles’ executive director Ashley Lippert said the commission’s attorney has discouraged side deals.

Georgia’s Failure to Enter Interstate Compact for Juveniles a “Serious Problem,” Judge Says

The final day of Georgia’s participation in the Interstate Compact for Juveniles is fast approaching and one Floyd County juvenile judge is not afraid to call this a “serious problem.”

Juvenile Judge Tim Pape spoke with the Rome News-Tribune recently about the impact on Georgia if there is no agreement for transferring children between the states. “If a child is on probation in Georgia and moves to Tennessee, there is no agreement with Tennessee to oversee probation,” Pape told the News-Tribune. Georgia has been operating under a previous compact for juveniles for years, but that agreement is set to expire June 30.  Georgia failed to pass legislation that would have allowed the state to operate under a new, updated compact. Without an agreement “the state would have no ability to enforce bringing kids to and from Georgia,” Judge Pape said. “Forty-six other states have adopted this compact.

Judge: Big Problems If Georgia Doesn’t Sign Compact

A few days ago, one of Judge Mary Carden’s probation officers came to her with a problem. A juvenile on probation and under the supervision of her court had moved to Texas with his parents. The probation officer did what he had always done; he phoned his counterpart in Texas, explained the situation and asked, as usual, that Georgia transfer supervision to the state of Texas. “Texas,” Judge Carden said, “essentially told us ‘come get your kid.’ They told us that Texas is very much aware that Georgia has chosen not to sign the Compact and as far as they were concerned, this wasn’t their problem.”

The Compact Judge Carden refers t o is the Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ), a legal mechanism that allows for the speedy and seamless transfer of delinquents and runaways between states. Georgia currently operates under the framework of a 1955 agreement.