DC court extends child's right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

02/06/2020, Litigation, Other subject area

The D.C. Court of Appeals has extended the right to counsel for delinquent children in proceedings outside the delinquency court.  The question was whether the statutory right to counsel for children in delinquency proceedings under D.C.’s Criminal Justice Act (CJA) extends to situations where a judge commits the delinquent child to the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) and DYRS then has subsequent administrative proceedings (although the delinquency court retains jurisdiction).  In the case, the delinquency judge appointed the child a lawyer for the DYRS proceedings but told the appointed lawyer that she wouldn’t be compensated under the CJA for those DYRS proceedings since the CJA didn’t extend that far.  The D.C. Court of Appeals noted that the CJA right to counsel extends to delinquency and “ancillary” proceedings, then held that the DYRS were “ancillary” under the definition of the CJA.  The court also rejected the government’s argument that this situation was analogous to postconviction proceedings (where adult prisoners lack a right to counsel), since " An important distinction between the adult and juvenile system developed in furtherance of these goals is that the court maintains jurisdiction over the child’s  case  for  the  entirety  of  their  commitment,  D.C.  Code  § 16-2303,  to  ensure  they  are  'receiving  appropriate  services' and  are in  the  appropriate ‘level of placement.'”  


Read a press release from Open City Advocates about the ruling.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes



The NCCRC signed on to an amicus brief from the National Juvenile Defender Center.