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House, Senate open hearings on juvenile legal aid

Gavel, court hammer. Free public domain CC0 photo.
Gavel, court hammer. Free public domain CC0 photo.

House and Senate committees held a hearing today (TUE) on improvements to Michigan’s juvenile justice system. The topic was ensuring youths charged with delinquency get adequate legal representation.

The bills would set training standards for attorneys who represent juveniles – and make it harder for juveniles to independently waive their right to an attorney. Senator Sue Shink says it can be too easy for young people to make decisions affecting their legal status without fully grasping the consequences.

“Kids in the justice system are often scared, overwhelmed and don’t know how to make these choices on their own and this avoids inadvertent coercion.”

The House Criminal Justice Committee and the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee heard from legal experts who said cases in the juvenile system are rarely appealed, which is evidence that young people’s rights are not being vigorously defended.