Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

D.C. Court of Appeals Extends Right to Free Counsel to Children Committed to the Custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services

Last week, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an important ruling that ensures free counsel for children from indigent families in certain hearings before the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.  Once a child is adjudicated delinquent, the Superior Court may commit the child to the custody of the Department, which makes decisions as significant as where the child will be housed (in a secure facility or in the community) and the services the child will receive.  At Team Decision Making Meetings, the Department reviews the child’s progress toward rehabilitation and decides whether changes should be made to the child’s placement or services.  At Community Status Review Hearings, the Department determines whether to revoke a child’s community placement if the child is alleged to have violated the conditions of release.  The Court of Appeals ruled that children are entitled to free counsel at both of these types of hearings.

For more information on this ruling, please see the press releases of Open City Advocates, which won the appeal, and the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel.

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