Access Denied: A National Snapshot of States’ Failure to Protect Children’s Right to Counsel

The Snapshot is based on a state-by-state analysis of the statutes that govern children’s access to counsel and interviews with juvenile defenders about how statutes and court rules translate into practice. The interviews were conducted with attorneys in urban and rural areas to explore differences in practices and resources. In total, 70 interviews were completed across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Findings discussed in the Snapshot reflect these 52 jurisdictions. Throughout the report, the term “states” is inclusive of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The structures of juvenile defense systems vary widely across the country and present real challenges to producing national surveys. Some states have established a centralized public defender organization responsible for all juvenile defense representation, others use a combination of public defender offices and appointed counsel or contract attorneys, and a small number rely solely on appointed counsel or contract attorneys for all juvenile defense representation. Oversight of defense attorneys also varies between and within states, creating differences in standards of representation. In light of these disparities, one attorney’s practice in a particular courtroom, county, or city is not necessarily reflective of all attorneys within that state.

Though not inclusive of perspectives from the more than 3,000 counties across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories, the Snapshot is an important step toward documenting and understanding whether the guarantees of due process — and specifically the right to counsel — are fulfilled for children nationally.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Gault Center Publications, Policy Tool, Resource Library
Tags: Access to Counsel, Racial Justice, Right to Counsel, Youth Defense Systems