What We Do
The Office of the Juvenile Defender (OJD) developed out of a study issued in October 2003 that explored the quality of representation in juvenile delinquency court in North Carolina. As a result, a recommendation of the Indigent Defense Services (IDS) Juvenile Committee was the creation of the Juvenile Defender of North Carolina position. The office opened in January 2005.
Provide services and support to juvenile defense attorneys. Either alone or in conjunction with various partners, OJD organizes and presents numerous statewide, regional, and local trainings including introductory, intermediate, and advanced topics. We have also worked with the UNC School of Government to develop a practical manual for juvenile defense counsel. The Manual includes an overview of statutory law, practice suggestions, and model forms and motions. We also maintain a clearing house of juvenile delinquency related material. OJD assists legal counsel by providing information to individual questions or ongoing consultation, for cases pending in delinquency or adult trial court, or on appeal. Additionally, a Juvenile Defender listserv has been created to allow juvenile defense counsel to discuss case problems, systemic issues and other relevant topics quickly, a private Defender Forum for conversation and community building, and a Defender Portal for access to motions and forms.
Evaluate the current system of representation. Since our inception, OJD has visited most of counties in NC to observe court, speak with court officials, and make recommendations to IDS as needed to improve the quality of juvenile defense representation. OJD has worked with public defender offices to start or strengthen juvenile delinquency practice. In an effort to strengthen juvenile defense representation, our office recommends, as needed, entering into contracts with local counsel to represent juveniles. Currently there are contracts in twelve counties in the state. OJD has worked with IDS to create the juvenile requirements of the Uniform Indigent Appointment Plan. OJD has also explored other dimensions of representation such as education rights and post-dispositional advocacy.
Elevate the stature of juvenile delinquency representation. In an effort to bring attention to the need for quality defense counsel in delinquency proceedings, OJD regularly presents our initiatives to various justice groups and adds a defense counsel voice to numerous boards and committees. OJD also works to inspire aspiring attorneys to consider juvenile defense representation as a career by guest lecturing at several of the law schools and hosting legal interns and externs. OJD worked closely with the North Carolina State Bar to make Juvenile Delinquency Law a sub-specialty of the Criminal Law Specialty in 2012 and continues to assist in the development of the specialty.
Work with juvenile justice advocates to promote positive change in the juvenile justice system. OJD has partnered with numerous advocacy groups including but not limited to the NC Bar Association Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section, the Governor’s Crime Commission, NC Child and the ACLU, to address critical juvenile justice issues such as Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice and raising the age of jurisdiction in delinquency court.
OJD hopes to continue its mission by pursuing several new initiatives as requested by our defense attorneys and state legislature. Our office is dedicated to continuing to explore representation of juveniles committed to youth development centers, improving representation of special populations of youth and researching issues related to juvenile appellate cases.
Our 2020-2021 initiatives include: Developing practical use documents and deliverables for attorney use during court proceedings, quick tip videos that explain new legislative law or information regarding juvenile delinquency, providing defenders with a space to build within their community and with colleagues, and present new training topics that are relevant to the current trends observed in juvenile cases.
History and Strategic Plan
Take a moment to read over how OJD and the Juvenile Justice System has grown since our inception.
ABA North Carolina Assessment - This assessment conducted by the American Bar Association (ABA), The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), and the Southern Juvenile Defender Center (SJDC), that established the need for and led to the creation of the Office of the Juvenile Defender.
Report of the Juvenile Committee of the IDS Commission 2004– This is the report in which the Juvenile Committee makes the recommendation for the creation of the Office of the Juvenile Defender.
A Look Back, A Vision For the Future– The Office compiled its strategic report in 2013 looking at the progress of Juvenile Defense in North Carolina and the work left to be accomplished. This is a brief summary of the findings of the report.
Strategic Report– The full report is included in this link, for a more thorough description of the process and the results of the project.