BY ADRIENNE SCHEFFEY — Professor Megan Annitto’s article, Juvenile Justice on Appeal, published in Issue 3, Volume 66 of the University of Miami Law Review, has served as the catalyst for a recent resolution by the American Bar Association (“ABA”).
Professor Annitto’s article was the source of much attention when it was first published, allowing it to gain the attention of many influential minds in the juvenile justice field. As a result, the article reached the desk of Lawrence A. Wojcik, a partner at the Chicago office of DLA Piper and, at that time, Chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the ABA’s Criminal Law Section. In an exclusive statement to Annitto, Mr. Wojcik reflected, “[Professor Annitto’s] law review article convinced me that one of the reasons we see uneven decisions from our juvenile courts was the lack of informed appellate review and guidance.”
As a result, Mr. Wojcik circulated the article to key stakeholders in the juvenile justice process. Upon hearing their responses, Mr. Wojcik remembers he found consensus around the need for more robust appellate review in order to achieve “better outcomes for children involved in the juvenile process.” The article was then circulated among the ABA committee and Mr. Wojcik found that “there was unanimous and enthusiastic support for developing ABA policy on the issue.”
As a result, Professor Annitto, who teaches at Charlotte School of Law, and Robert Schwartz, Executive Director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, were asked to create a draft resolution and supporting memorandum. The draft resolution was approved by the ABA House of Delegates, on February 10, 2014. Key provisions state that juveniles should have improved access to appeals that are consistent with state statutes and state constitutional provisions. Additionally, accompanying data, much of which came from Professor Annitto’s article, was used to bring context to the “dramatic lack of appeals” in juvenile cases that this resolution would address; the results of Annitto’s national survey revealed that there are just five appeals per 1,000 juvenile delinquency convictions on average each year, and, in some states, the number is dramatically lower.
It is not just Mr. Wojcik who is hopeful about the future of Professor Annitto’s work. Kim Brooks Tandy, of the Children’s Law Center, foresees much change in the future, and in an interview with the University of Miami Law Review, stated,
Professor Annitto’s research and now the ABA resolution are reminders that juvenile defense delivery systems must not ignore the appellate process as a critical stage of the proceeding, and one which can help to shape juvenile justice policies and practice in all states. It is unacceptable that so few juvenile cases are brought on appeal and that many states have not built in sufficient resources for juvenile appeals. Strong appellate systems can keep trial court practices in check and ensure fundamental fairness in juvenile proceedings; the ABA is now calling up states to recognize that and take action to correct deficiencies.
Mr. Wojcik further stated to Annitto that he anticipates “the Resolution and Memorandum will be cited by judges, legislators, lawyers, concerned interest groups, and the media” as the states address the issue of appellate oversight in the context of juvenile justice.