The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) adopted a new resolution to strengthen the role of judges who handle juvenile justice cases. These recommendations were proposed in a recently published 50-state analysis report co-authored by the NCJFCJ and The Council of State Governments Justice Center.
Last week, the Board of Directors at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) unanimously voted to adopt the “Resolution on Strengthening the Role of Judges Who Handle Juvenile Justice Cases Statewide.” The recommendations in the resolution were proposed in a recently released 50-state analysis, “Courting Judicial Excellence in Juvenile Justice: A 50-State Study.” The report and corresponding resolution provide guidance on how states can and should strengthen their juvenile courts so that judges who handle delinquency cases can make better-informed decisions that will improve public safety and youth outcomes. The study is co-authored by the NCJFCJ and The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center with support from The State Justice Institute.
“As the nation’s oldest judicial membership organization, the juvenile justice field has looked to the NCJFCJ for a collective vision of how the juvenile justice system and judges assigned to juvenile delinquency caseloads should continue to evolve and improve,” said Honorable Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo, president of the NCJFCJ. “I am proud to announce that the NCJFCJ’s Board of Directors has approved a ‘Resolution on Strengthening the Role of Judges Who Handle Juvenile Justice Cases Statewide’ that supports the joint report and its recommendations.”
The resolution calls on state policymakers and court leaders to ensure that juvenile court judges who make life-changing decisions have the proper knowledge, training, and tools they need to be effective at a fragile time for juvenile justice reform and amidst growing concerns about youth violence. It recognizes that each child under court jurisdiction is unique, valued, and entitled to individualized attention. The resolution highlights the importance of statewide education, training, and support for judges who handle juvenile justice and delinquency cases so that they have access to research and best practices to make informed decisions.
In particular, the NCJFCJ recommends that states should establish specialized, dedicated juvenile/family court judges responsible for hearing delinquency cases; develop state policies to support informed judicial decision-making for dispositional decisions, particularly the use of detention and incarceration; require all judges who hear delinquency cases to receive training on adolescent development and juvenile justice research prior to taking the bench and annually thereafter; and establish statewide performance measures for juvenile court judges to strengthen decision-making transparency, research alignment, and accountability. These steps can limit justice by geography and ensure that all youth within a state, and across the country, can receive justice that is fair, accountable, effective, and equitable.
“I’m thrilled that the Board of the NCJFCJ has adopted this resolution. Their commitment to ensuring that juvenile and family court judges have specialized expertise about what works to support the young people who appear before them will lead the field forward at a critical time,” said Megan Quattlebaum, director of the CSG Justice Center. “Court systems that adopt these recommendations will be better situated to support positive outcomes and to ensure that young people are treated equitably and with dignity. This is a win for youth, their families, and our communities.”
The resolution pulls its recommendations from the report that was released last month, “Courting Judicial Excellence in Juvenile Justice: A 50-State Study,” which is the first investigative study of its kind that examines the structure and operations of juvenile courts across the United States. The report found that most states currently do not have dedicated juvenile court judges or critical resources that are highly important in making decisions that are in the best interests of youth outcomes.
View the full resolution.
View the report with the full list of policy recommendations.
View the full broadcast of the CSG Justice Center’s Justice Briefing Live event on Courting Judicial Excellence in Juvenile Justice. The event was held on June 2, 2022, and brought together experts in the field to discuss findings from the report.
View the data on juvenile courts Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice & Statistics).