A scathing report by the National Juvenile Defender Center revealed that Florida’s delinquency system fails to provide children adequate legal representation. When it comes to indigent children charged with crimes, the report found troubling problems of “Florida’s high rates of waiver of counsel, lack of zealous defense advocacy, hectic courtrooms, and inadequate defense resources.”
With a $778,000 three-year grant from the Eckerd Family Foundation, Barry University’s Andreas School of Law has created a Juvenile Justice Center to address those shortcomings by training lawyers and law students to represent children accused of crimes in Florida’s juvenile delinquency system.
“We are very excited about this opportunity to work with the Florida Public Defender Association to address some of the weaknesses raised in the National Juvenile Defender Center’s report,” said Gerard Glynn, associate professor of law, director of In-house Clinical Programs at Barry’s law school in Orlando, and former chair of The Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee.
“As the report indicates, ‘Florida’s juvenile courts cannot guarantee due process and accountability for youth without participation of well-trained, well-resourced defense counsel.’ With Eckerd’s support, we have a chance to work to ensure quality representation for Florida’s youth in need of defense and representation.”
Glynn said plans are underway for the first training in December, in partnership with the American College of Trial Lawyers.
The new center will be a part of the law school’s clinical programs and will begin operations by the end of summer. The first task will be training juvenile public defenders. The center will also identify a public defender office that will work to create a model of best practices for the state of Florida.
After the 2006 report, Barry and the Eckerd Family Foundation worked together to find ways to improve the representation, resulting in the creation of the new center. The Florida Public Defender Association, National Juvenile Defender Center, and Southern Juvenile Defender Center will join as partners.
“Part of the mission of Barry University School of Law is to provide a quality education with a commitment to service. The Juvenile Justice Center meets these objectives by ensuring Florida’s children have quality advocacy to improve their chances for a bright future,” said Leticia Diaz, dean of Barry’s law school.
“We are excited about this new venture and look forward to working with the Eckerd Family Foundation.”
Joe Clark, president of the Eckerd Family Foundation, said the organization “has long been committed to improving the lives of youth and their families in Florida. Our partnership with the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law at Barry University promotes our goal of giving a stronger voice to those young people who become involved with Florida’s juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The Juvenile Justice Center is an innovative and cost-effective approach to promoting effective advocacy, achieving just outcomes, and ensuring the quality of our system of justice.”
The Eckerd Family Foundation, based in Clearwater, is committed to promoting meaningful and lasting change to transform the lives of vulnerable youth and their families, according to its promotional materials. Its mission is to provide leadership and support for innovative educational, preventative, therapeutic, and rehabilitative programs for children, youth, and their families. The foundation seeks to support the most promising and innovative ideas that provide vulnerable youth with not merely transitional services, but rather transformational opportunities helping them to reconnect with their futures.