Children's Right to Counsel

At every stage in the legal process, from initial interactions with police to arrest, then prosecution, and trial, children face unique challenges navigating the legal system, due is significant part to the developmental nature of childhood.  The idea that children are developmentally different and should not be held to adult standards has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in opinions abolishing the death penalty in juvenile cases (Roper v Simmons) and limiting the application of juvenile life without parole sentences (Graham v. Florida). Despite this emerging recognition of children’s developing capacities and their needs, many youth still confront having to make critical decisions without adequate access to counsel.  

On September 12, 2016, the House of Representatives will host a briefing on children’s right to counsel. Sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass and co-hosted by the American Bar Association, the Children's Advocacy Institute, First Focus, and the National Association of Counsel for Children , the briefing will include testimony from experts from child welfare, immigration and juvenile justice about the critical nature of legal representation for children.  Click here for more information and to register to attend the briefing.

For an important and informative human rights perspective on the issue, see Bernadine Dohrn’s recent article which urges the United States to recognize children’s need to have access to counsel prior to being questioned.

First published on Human Rights at Home blog.