Nearly sixty years ago, In re Gault guaranteed children in juvenile court the right to counsel. However, Gault fell short. While recognizing children’s distinct vulnerability, the Court created a right for children that is weaker than that of adults and failed to recognize how youth in fact require a more expansive right to counsel. Grounded in the stories of court-involved youth who received deficient representation, this Note illustrates the devastating consequences of Gault’s limitations. It argues that the differences between children and adults that compelled the Court to adopt additional protections for children in sentencing also justify an expanded right to counsel. The Note uses the characteristics of youth articulated in Eighth Amendment cases to recommend six changes to how children are represented. These changes are: first, requiring each jurisdiction to have a dedicated youth defender’s office, which provides specialized training and supervision; second, eliminating common conflicts of interest; third, making mitigation mandatory; fourth, guaranteeing the right to postdisposition advocacy; fifth, moving toward a holistic defense model; and sixth, adopting a youth-specific standard for ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims.
Samuel K. Lawrence,
"Children Are Different" and Their Lawyers Should Be Too,
73 Duke Law Journal
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dlj/vol73/iss5/3