To promote justice for all children by ensuring excellence in youth defense.
Statement of Beliefs
The Gault Center believes that a strong youth defense delivery system is a vital mechanism for ensuring that:
- All children in the legal system have ready and timely access to skilled, well-resourced, well-trained lawyers.
- All children are afforded full protection of their constitutional, statutory, and human rights.
- All children receive legal representation that is client-centered, individualized, developmentally and age-appropriate, and free of bias.
- All children have opportunities to attain their potential to become productive members of society.
For these reasons, The Gault Center believes that the youth defense bar must:
- Enhance its skill, capacity, and commitment to professionalism.
- Cultivate leadership to promote accountability and bring about reform in the juvenile legal system.
- Build collaborations, partnerships, and community involvement to advance youth defense delivery systems.
The Gault Center’s work is framed by a set of Guiding Principles to ensure fidelity to a set of common values rooted in law and science:
- Youth defenders play a critical role in the fair administration of justice for children.
- Youth defense is a specialized practice anchored in youth-specific training and practice skills.
- Youth defense requires zealous advocacy.
- Youth defense requires competence and proficiency in court rules and the law.
- Youth defense requires legal representation that is individualized.
- Youth defense requires representation that is developmentally appropriate.
- Youth defense is based on the clients’ expressed interests.
- Youth defense requires that clients be meaningful participants in their defense.
- Youth defense includes counseling clients through the legal and extralegal processes.
- Youth defense includes ensuring that clients and their families are treated with dignity and respect and that there is decorum in the courtroom.
- Systemic barriers and deficiencies impair youth defenders' abilities to provide high-quality representation.
- Systemic barriers and deficiencies lead to disproportionate representation of vulnerable, underserved populations at every contact with and stage of the juvenile delinquency court process.
Racial Justice Statement
To promote justice for all children, The Gault Center must actively work to counteract the deeply rooted systemic biases that disproportionately impact Black, Latinx, Asian, Native, Indigenous, and all youth who experience disparate treatment because of their race or ethnicity at every stage of the juvenile legal system.
The Gault Center is committed to incorporating racial justice advocacy in every aspect of our work supporting youth and defenders across the country, by:
- ensuring racial justice advocacy and education is incorporated in every training, publication, and project;
- providing resources to help defenders raise race and change discriminatory policies and practices;
- preparing defenders to incorporate research and data on race, adolescence, and police trauma throughout a case;
- increasing the capacity of defenders to train others to raise race, address implicit bias, and challenge discriminatory practices;
- raising awareness about racial and ethnic disparities, implicit bias, and racial trauma with policymakers, juvenile legal system stakeholders, and the public;
- establishing a diverse community of defenders, advocates, and leaders within our organization and regional youth defender centers.
Racial justice advocacy is integral to effective youth defense, and youth defenders play a vital role, through both courtroom and policy advocacy, in dismantling discriminatory systems that harm children. A youth defender cannot fully, ethically, and zealously represent their young clients if that defender does not consider the impact systemic racism has had on each young person’s life and on the circumstances that brought them into juvenile court. As defenders, we must consistently raise race in the juvenile legal system, which is, at its core, about race.
The Gault Center believes that equity, inclusion, and diversity are integral to creating a truly just legal system for all youth. To that end, we are committed to creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community of youth defenders and advocates who fight for the rights and interests of youth involved in the delinquency system.
Our work is rooted in the belief that all young people should receive excellent defense representation and equal footing in the legal system, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, sex, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, physical and/or mental ability, age, religion, socioeconomic class, or other aspects of identity.
The Gault Center is dedicated to working with youth defenders and advocates to stand between young people and the juvenile legal system, to use the law as a shield to protect them, and to use the Constitution and other legal means to dismantle what oppresses them.