In a very thorough and well-researched two-part blog series, David Carroll, of the Sixth Amendment Center, details the state of indigent defense in Tennessee and Shelby County and makes a compelling argument that a truly reformed Shelby County Juvenile Court will only be possible if a fully funded and independent juvenile defender is present.
Citing the importance of understanding the history of the indigent defense system in Tennessee, in Part 1 of this series Carroll tells a very accurate and detailed history of the legislation that established it and the funding mechanisms that pay for it. Carroll also dives into the recent findings of the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division in which they reveal serious constitutional issues with the Shelby County Juvenile Court system. Among those findings discussed in Part 1 , Carroll discusses the importance of a child’s right to adversial counsel.
In Part 2, Carroll makes the point that addressing the funding issue that the chief defenders for both Shelby and Davidson counties presented to the General Assembly earlier this year is vital to adequately addressing the Juvenile Court issue. This funding gap has not been closed and remains a critical step to be taken toward a fully funded adult defender system. Carroll points out the dangers in stretching this sytem even more to include juvenile defense.
A constitutionally sound Juvenile Court and public defense system are essential to making Memphis a just city. Check back with us for more on these issues and follow the Sixth Amendment Center’s continuing coverage of it and other national justice reform issues. You can find them at their blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. The Sixth Amendment Center is helping make Memphis a Just City!