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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Juvenile and Children’s Advocacy Project’s Juvenile Representation clinic has adapted to continue to represent dual-status youth by having students attend Zoom hearings on behalf of their clients along with their supervising attorneys. Client visitations and meetings have been accomplished via a mix of Zoom visitations, phone calls, and socially distanced placement visits. Additionally, students are able to sit in the courtroom with Juvenile Court Judge Dena Fisher to view other juvenile court hearings and trials and discuss their questions and reactions with Fisher in real time, so they get an overview of many different proceedings and case situations.
Students in the class have also represented clients on record sealing cases by meeting with clients virtually, drafting and filing the pleadings, and attending opposed record sealing cases with Professor Katya Dow. Currently, the JCAP record sealing program has sealed over 600 juvenile records.
JCAP has extended the reach of the juvenile record sealing clinic by training approximately 150 lawyers at major law firms how to do juvenile record sealing. Training sessions have been held
at Vinson & Elkins, Morgan Lewis, Latham & Watkins, Beck Redden and Jackson Walker, as well as through the Houston Bar Association sealing program. Professor Dow will provide further record sealing training to the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, as the HBA sealing program transitions to the HVL.
In partnership with Texas Appleseed, the Harris County Youth Collective, the Earl Carl Institute and Beacon Law, JCAP
has participated in expunction clinics to provide pro bono expunction and sealing services for both adult and juvenile records.
JCAP made national news as a result of its representation of DeAndre Arnold and Kaden Bradford, who had been suspended from the Barbers Hill Independent School District for wearing their hair in dreadlocks. JCAP partnered with the ACLU of Texas and LDF on these cases, with JCAP’s Equal Justice Works fellow Christina Beeler ’18 providing representation in the school grievance process and conducting research and support for the ACLU and LDF in the civil court proceedings. The court ultimately ruled that the BHISD hair policy was discriminatory.
In public policy initiatives, JCAP’s Professor Dow is a member of the Texas Supreme Court Children’s Commission state-wide task force on Dual Status Youth, which was created to identify best practices for representing and advocating for dual status youth and propose policies and legislation aimed at implementing those practices.
High school students from Chinquapin Preparatory School won the championship round of the University of Houston Law Center’s virtual Street Law 2020 mock trial competition in November. Students from Alief Early College were the runners-up. The Honorable Gregg Costa of the Fifth Circuit of Appeals served as the judge of the final round.
Other participating schools included High School for Law
and Justice, KIPP Northeast College Prep High School, KIPP Generations Collegiate High School, Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men and Excel Academy Charter School: a Residential Facility of Juvenile Probation. There were 28 teams total.
“You all should be very proud of yourselves,” Costa said in his closing remarks. “You all accomplished a great deal. Even if you don’t become a lawyer, I hope you recognize the importance of the justice system, serving as jurors, getting active in voting and playing a part in our democracy. It all depends on talented young people like you. It was an honor to be a part of this.”
The Street Law program was established in 2016 by Professor Ellen Marrus, director of the Center for Children, Law & Policy and the Royce Till Professor of Law.
“There were many changes in our mock trial this year – students competed over multiple days, for the first time we had youth involved from juvenile probation residential facilities, and of course, due to the pandemic all learning and trials occurred over Zoom,” Marrus said. “Many attorneys have not been prepared for conducting trials virtually. Our Street Law scholars did an amazing job. I cannot wait to see them as true lawyers in the future.
“The legal profession needs to keep an eye on these young people. They have the potential of being future changers and shakers. Hearing from a young person who has been in conflict with the law themselves, hearing them understand how the legal system works, and them proclaiming that they found their voice and want to continue their education, get a law degree and represent young people in court summed up why this program is so important. It really does change lives.”

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