The Ethical Struggle of Usurping Juvenile Client Autonomy by Raising Competency in Delinquency and Criminal Cases
43 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2007
State legal ethics codes embrace the assumption that the majority of clients, including mature juveniles, enjoy the right of autonomous decision-making as it relates to the objectives of litigation. However, these ethics codes fail to adequately address the role of the lawyer when representing juvenile clients that do not fall under this category. With the recognition that mental illness, mental retardation and developmental immaturity are major factors impacting the competence of juveniles to stand trial in delinquency and adult criminal cases, one of the ethical challenges requiring debate and resolution is when counsel may usurp the client’s autonomy and raise the issue of competency despite the client’s explicit objections. This article examines the legal ethics issues attorneys representing juveniles in delinquency and criminal cases face when the client’s behavior and communications suggest that competency should be raised, but the client disagrees with counsel about broaching the issue.
Keywords: Juveniles, ABA Model Rule 1.14, Competency, Counsel, Legal Ethics, Professional Responsibility
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