May 16, 2014 – Ninety-five juvenile justice advocates are taking part in a two-day training conference at the University of Houston Law Center designed to strengthen and expand legal representation for troubled youths in a variety of settings, not just delinquency court.
The 13th Annual Zealous Advocacy Conference is sponsored by the Center for Children, Law & Policy and the Southwest Juvenile Defender Center, both based at the Law Center.
The CLE seminar covers a wide range of subjects from immigration and juvenile law, adolescent development, and medications to school-based misdemeanors, ethical questions, and specialty courts.
The emphasis of the conference, according to UHLC Professor Ellen Marrus, director of the Center for Children, Law & Policy, is to provide additional tools for attorneys to deal successfully with intersecting areas outside the courthouse such as housing, school, benefits, family life or alternate living arrangements, and employment prospects.
One training session Thursday afternoon dealt with “Multi-Systemic Advocacy: Family, School & State Agencies.” Lindy Frolich, director of the Alternate Defense Counsel in Colorado, and Pamela Vickrey, executive director of Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys, walked participants through the basic rights -- do’s and don’ts -- of shepherding juvenile clients, and their parents, through the various systems.
For instance, the two reminded the audience that students are entitled to legal representation during school disciplinary proceedings. This reduces the intimidation factor for the youth facing school officials and also may lead to helpful documentation, supportive teachers, or witnesses. The results are generally more favorable to the client, they said.
Legal representation, as well as guidance from psychologists and social workers, can help those needing special education accommodations and services. In order to qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IED), applicants must meet certain defined disabilities, including intellectual, hearing, speech, vision, emotional, autism, and others. Attorneys can help parents prove their child’s needs and ensure school districts adhere to federal law requiring a “free and public education” for all.
The two also encouraged attendees to be creative in considering alternative options in placing delinquents, including friends of the family, foster care, shelters, and group homes.
Vickrey and Frolich concluded by underscoring the long-term consequences of juvenile adjudication including possible eviction for the entire family, a bar to scholarships and educational opportunities, a military career, and certain other occupations.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, thanked the Center for providing such a valuable forum and participants for their dedication to such important work. She presented Marrus with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition.
“As lawyers I hope you view your advocacy with importance,” said Jackson Lee whose congressional district includes the University of Houston. “You who are lawyers are the armor that provide a guided path for justice.”
The conference concluded with presentations by UHLC Professors Marrus, Jill Campbell and Susham Modi, the Hon. Michael Schneider of the 315th District Court, and other speakers.