Broken Contracts: Reimagining High-Quality Representation of Youth in Contract and Appointed Counsel Systems

Young people facing delinquency charges need and deserve full access to high-quality, zealous defense representation, regardless of where they live. Even in counties with public defenders, at least some of the attorneys appointed to represent youth in delinquency court are engaged through a contract or other court-appointment system. It is, therefore, imperative that policymakers, defense system managers, and stakeholders work together to elevate the quality of representation provided by contract attorney systems.

Defenders who work in contract or appointed systems generally lack supports inherent in public defender systems—structure, oversight, mentorship, and quality review—and are too often disadvantaged by pay structures that do not compensate them for all the time they spend on a case or the time it takes to obtain the specialized training necessary to provide competent representation in delinquency cases.

Fortunately, these shortcomings can be addressed within existing contract counsel system structures by adopting standards, formalizing contracts, instituting oversight, and reforming payment systems. The Toolkit accompanying this report contains resources for stakeholders who want to enhance their contract counsel systems and ensure that the quality of representation every child receives reflects not where they live but the demands of the Constitution and the promises of Gault.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Gault Center Publications, Policy Tool, Resource Library
Tags: Access to Counsel, Contract Counsel, Quality of Representation, Specialization, Youth Defense Systems