Kids, Counsel and Costs: An Empirical Study of Indigent Defense Services in the Los Angeles Juvenile Delinquency Courts
Criminal Law Bulletin (Forthcoming)
34 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 21, 2013
In the landmark case In re Gault, the Supreme Court guaranteed juveniles virtually all of the criminal due process rights previously granted to adults. Arguably the most vital of those rights is the right to competent counsel. Scholars have studied how systems provide legal counsel and have questioned the use of certain models to provide defense services. Los Angeles County utilizes two distinct models for the provision of defense services: a contract-panel attorney model and a public defender office. This study looks at data from over 2,800 juvenile court case files from the Los Angeles juvenile courts and asks the following questions: Do public defenders and contract-panel attorneys behave differently? If so, does their behavior make a difference? Our analysis shows that contract panel attorneys are less active, and that youth represented by contract panel attorneys are convicted of more serious offenses and are subject to more severe dispositions. Finally, noting differences in both attorney behavior and outcomes, we explore some of the potential causes and implications of our findings.
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