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Legal Parties Task Force

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Transcript of Legal Parties Task Force

Legal Parties Taskforce
Survey Background
The Taskforce created the Juvenile Law Practice Survey to capture data regarding practice across the state to inform its recommendations.

The information contained in this presentation represents the responses to the Juvenile Law Practice Survey, and not the recommendations of the Taskforce or views of any individual Taskforce members or staff.

Survey Demographics
Survey received 70 responses from attorneys
Attorney Roles
50 attorneys reported being child attorneys, defense attorneys, guardians ad litem, intervenor attorneys, or parent attorneys.
Fifteen attorneys reported as county attorneys
Five attorneys reported as agency attorneys
Primary Court of Practice
36 attorneys reported practicing juvenile law primarily in County Courts sitting as Juvenile Courts
34 attorneys reported practicing juvenile law primarily in the Separate Juvenile Courts

Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-427(3)(a)
Unclear whether in cases adjudicated as no parental fault, parents can be ordered to comply with a case plan and services, and whether the order can be enforced.
Cases may be filed as no-fault in order to secure an admission from the parents and gain jurisdiction.
Procedural concerns about whether a parent’s rights can be terminated on a case adjudicated as no-fault.
Wide variety of practice in making filing decisions under Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a).

Major Themes of Survey Results
Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a) Fault and No Fault Petitions
Wide variations in practice in how fault and no-fault filing decisions are made under this section.
Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(5)
Attorneys are unclear about the Juvenile Court’s authority to order parental compliance with services and case plans, and to enforce those orders.
Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(c) Mentally Ill and Dangerous Youth
This provision is not used in every area of the state. Although it can allow families to access services, there is still difficulty accessing services in the community or continuing services once the emergency is over. Additionally, attorneys express confusion about statutory language and timeframes.
Service availability
Access to judicial time
Attorneys practicing in counties with Separate Juvenile Courts report that access the judicial time and docket availability negatively impacts the practice of juvenile law.

Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(5)
Filing Considerations in Domestic Violence Involved Cases
Domestic Violence Victim

Presence of complex factors
Identifying the victim
History and frequency of violence
Exposure of child to violence/harm
Prior system intervention
Best interest and safety of the child
Parent capability or willingness to remedy the issue

Juvenile Law Practice Survey Results
July 2016

Domestic Violence Perpetrator

Presence of complex factors
Identifying the victim
Exposure of child to violence
Prior or concurrent system intervention
Best interest and safety of child
Procedural considerations

This section states that the juvenile court has jurisdiction over the parent, guardian, or custodian of any juvenile over which the court has jurisdiction.
Attorney responses regarding the purpose of the statute:
Plain meaning
Some responded that the jurisdiction the court can take is different depending on which section of the statute the child falls under
To prevent revocation of probation for juveniles who are not complying with probation due to fault of parents
Not utilized in some jurisdictions
So that court has authority to make parents comply with court orders reasonably related to the adjudicated issue

Improvement to Statute
All responses from attorneys indicated that clarification of the statute would be beneficial to juvenile law practice. Suggestions for improvement included:
Description of the limits of jurisdiction to order parents without a 3(a) fault filing
Clearly state the purpose for jurisdiction.
Outlining the specific purpose and extent, or ling, of the courts jurisdiction as it relates to findings under Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(1), (2), and (3).
Education and clarification on how this section affects the due process rights of parents.


Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(c), Mentally Ill and Dangerous Youth
Is this section the most effective way to treat youth?
This section is not used or rarely used
This section is the most effective way to treat mentally ill and dangerous youth
Helps families access services
Most appropriate filing for youth who do not fit under sections (a) or (b)
This section is not the most effective way to treat mentally ill and dangerous youth
Lack of services in the area
Impact of adjudication on youth's future
Time constraints make use of this section difficult
"Mentally ill and dangerous" is a legal term of art and not a diagnosis, leading to difficulties in the testimony of mental health professionals
Concern over court's ability to order services and placement for youth and family.
Limitations of the section that prevent access to services:

Lack of service providers and treatment facilities
Services can only be ordered while there is an imminent threat to child or others
Statutory time period makes it difficult to get necessary evaluations
Proving the child is “dangerous” can be cumbersome, making 3(a) a more expedient and efficient way of accessing services
The county does not use this provision
Concerns over ability/authority of the court to order parents to participate makes 3(a) a more efficient provision than 3(c)


Attorneys and Access to Services
When asked whether increased access to services would improve juvenile practice, every responding attorney either agreed or strongly agreed
Lack of services in the area was cited as a major reason that Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(c) is not effective to treat mentally ill and dangerous youth
When attorneys were asked what challenges they experience in their role related to Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247, many stated that a lack of services was the major challenge
Attorneys reported that increased access to services would allow them to more effectively represent their client
Similarly, attorneys reported that increased access to services and opportunities for families to gain parenting and personal responsibility skills would improve outcomes for families.
Attorneys and Access to Judicial Time
Attorneys practicing in counties with Separate Juvenile Courts report that a lack of access to judicial time and docket availability negatively impact the practice of juvenile law.

Attorneys practicing in counties with County Courts sitting as Juvenile Courts mostly reported that access to judicial time does not negatively impact the practice of juvenile law, while a minority report that at times there can be a negative impact when courts are in session a few times a month.

County attorneys practicing in counties with County Courts sitting as Juvenile Courts either report that they have experienced no timing conflict between the juvenile docket and other dockets, or that they have experienced a conflict, but it does not impact juvenile practice.

Next Steps
Taskforce has shared survey information to stakeholders for additional feedback

Survey information will be used to identify areas for further consideration and recommendations

Potential priorities include:
Fault and no fault clarifications
Court jurisdiction under Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(5)
Mentally Ill and Dangerous Youth 43-247(3)(c)
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