December marks one year since Shelby County entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice involving its Juvenile Court.
The MOA or Memorandum of Agreement required the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office to provide services to juvenile court. This will be the first time the Public Defender’s Office has been responsible for juvenile defense in Shelby County since the 1970s.
In April of 2012, the Department of Justice issued a stinging report, alleging that the Court has systematically violated the due process rights of children and failed to offer equal protection to African American children specifically.
After six months of negotiations, the DOJ and the Court came to an agreement designed to transform the system and avoid a potentially long and expensive lawsuit.
This is the first time the DOJ has moved against a juvenile court system, directing national attention to Shelby County and its response.
You can read more about these reforms to the juvenile defender function in the most recent edition of the Memphis Bar Association magazine, Memphis Lawyer.