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Juvenile Law Clinic

Student attorneys in the Juvenile Law Clinic litigate delinquency and dependency (or abuse and neglect cases) in the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court system.

Student attorneys in the Juvenile Law Clinic litigate delinquency cases in the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court system. The student-attorneys are sworn in to practice law under Louisiana Supreme Court Rule XX, the state student practice rule. The student attorneys handle all client and witness interviews; investigate the crime scenes; handle all legal research and fact investigation; argue all pre-trial motions, preliminary examinations, arraignments, competency hearings, and suppression hearings; and they handle the trials or adjudication hearings. The student attorneys also draft all writs or appeals in the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal and the Louisiana Supreme Court.

“These programs have changed my idea of what it means to be a lawyer because they’ve really taught me how to advocate for my client, they’ve also taught me how to deal with a case, and what the steps of a trial are, as well as what the steps are involved when someone is accused of a crime. It’s really helped me get out of the realm of law books and get into the realm of working with people and actually acting on being an attorney.”  Sarah Cullum (L’18), pursuing LLM in Trial Advocacy, American University

In recent cases, clinic student attorneys successfully obtained a landmark ruling on behalf of a minor client diagnosed with fetal alcohol effect; the state was ordered to devise a case plan that could be implemented statewide for other children suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). In another case, the clinic obtained a court order requiring the state to develop a policy on confidentiality for HIV-positive children in the state's custody.

Recent delinquency appointments have resulted in the clinic's student attorneys challenging juvenile client competency in a large number of delinquency cases to go to trial. This challenge has resulted in exposing an increasing number of juveniles suffering various mental health problems in post-Katrina New Orleans. Much of this work requires an interdisciplinary approach to practicing law using the latest findings in adolescent mental health literature and studies. Student attorneys have also grappled with the ethical limits of attorney client confidentiality where juvenile clients threaten suicide, or where clients acknowledge having been abused at home, despite seeking to be placed in their homes with their abusers.

“The most meaningful experience I had in the clinic was after I had my first client, he is a 12-year old . . . When we got him out of the youth detention center, his mother cried she was so happy. I felt like I was really performing a service for this little boy and his mother. You have to remember with juveniles, they’re children before anything else—and they make bad decisions sometimes, but they’re kids."  Sarah Cullum (L’18), pursuing LLM in Trial Advocacy, American University