Weekly Notes: New Candidate for OJJDP; Youth Court Month; upcoming events; and more

Print

***The name of one candidate for the administrator position at the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has emerged this week. It’s California Superior Court Judge Kurt Kumli.

It is a little surprising that a judge would give up a spot on the bench for a chance at a federal job that could end in two years. But multiple sources have said Kumli interviewed for the job.

Kumli spent 17 years with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and for 15 of those years focused solely on juvenile and child welfare issues. He is a Democrat, but was appointed to the bench in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). That appointment undoubtedly came in part due to Kumli’s work on Schwarzenegger’s Juvenile Justice Working Group, which was started in 2004 and tasked with reforming the Division of Juvenile Justice (formerly known as the California Youth Authority).

Kumli also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, and has worked on juvenile justice issues with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Vera Institute of Justice.

Kumli is not a well-known commodity in D.C., so JJ Today pestered California JJ insiders to see what they knew about him. The response was unanimously positive.

“I think Kurt’s an excellent choice,” said Dan Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). “He’ s far and above the best D.A. on juvenile justice. I was actually somewhat disappointed when he became judge because I thought he could be so much more effective as a D.A.”

Macallair recalls Kumli emerging as a hard-line juvenile prosecutor and coming around once he observed the way the JJ system functioned (or didn’t) – not unlike another former prosecutor-turned-OJJDP boss, Shay Bilchik.

“He has a level of understanding and empathy that frankly you don’t find among many elements of the California system,” Macallair said.

 “We have worked closely over the past seven years,” said Barry Krisberg, the former head of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency who now teaches juvenile justice at the University of California-Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law. “He’s good on all the issues, a very strong advocate for juvenile justice, and thought of as a solid manager.”

Click here for Kumli’s take on California’s juvenile transfer laws, and here for a clip of Kumli speaking at a forum held by the CJCJ. While the comments focus on California, they gives you a good look at his general view of the juvenile justice system.

That he’s a compelling speaker is nothing to sneeze at either. “He’s very good with people, likes to get around and meet and greet,” said David Steinhart, who heads the juvenile justice program for California nonprofit Commonweal. “He won’t hide in an office.”

Twelve months ago, what would the odds have been that a white, former district attorney might fill this job in the Obama administration?

*** Laurence Tribe, a senior counselor in charge of the Justice Department’s Access to Justice Initiative, delivered a 32-page keynote speech at the Annual Conference of Chief Justices this summer. Justice recently circulated the speech in an e-mail.

Click here to give it a read. Tribe’s discussion of juvenile justice begins on page 18 with, predictably, mention of the Luzerne County judges scandal:

When we were juveniles, there was an ethos that everyone was out to help the kids, so issues like waiver of counsel weren’t really important. Today, confronted with situations like Luzerne County, we know better. The consequences of juvenile adjudications are serious and long term; the lack of representation can reshape a child’s entire life. Being found guilty can mean expulsion from school, exclusion from the job market, eviction from public housing, and exclusion from the opportunity to enlist in the military. It can affect immigration status. This is serious stuff.

At the moment, the Access to Justice project is of relatively low financial means. JJ Today has no doubt that, if discretionary funds for OJJDP weren’t earmarked up for a year, one of its projects would focus on juvenile defense systems. In the meantime, Access will focus on selling state justices on taking up the cause in whatever way is feasible during rough budgetary times.

*** On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs will conduct a  hearing entitled, “Rape in the United States: The Chronic Failure to Report and Investigate Rape Cases.” Not sure how much of the hearing will focus on young women, but at least one witness will address system-involved girls: LaWanda Ravoira, director of the Center for Girls and Young Women in Jacksonville, Fla. Here is the witness list.

***Happy Youth Court Month! Don’t fret, there are still 20 shopping days left in the month to get a special something for your favorite local youth court personnel. In honor of the occasion, here are links to two resources for more information on the concept:

- Office of Justice Programs website on youth courts.

- Global Youth Justice, the website for the organization started by former OJJDP staffer Scott Peterson, one of the leading advocates for youth courts worldwide. 

For anyone interested in starting up a youth or teen court, Global Youth Justice is hosting a training institute on the subject in Las Vegas from Dec. 7-9.

***A really sad story here by Boston Globe reporter Travis Andersen about the fatal shooting of  18-year-old Jeremy Price, a mentally disabled boy who at 15 killed Michael Hansbury after being goaded into punching him by other teens.

Andersen did an excellent job getting every angle of this, and what you come away with is this: Price never should have been a juvenile justice ward. The judge felt the teen needed mental health care more than he needed a cell, and felt he probably needed to be in that care for longer than a judge could mandate for a juvenile.

The quote from Hansbury’s mother is the most striking: “I almost feel as bad as when my own son was killed,’’ she said. “Because I know in my own heart that Jeremy Price did not set out to kill my son.’’

CALENDAR

- Improving Outcomes of Youth in Juvenile Justice Facilities, a webinar put on by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s Children Research Center. Center staff will discuss what they bill as “an educational protocol that addresses the best practices needed to meet each youth’s educational needs within the JJ system to ensure appropriate academic progress during his/her residential stay and to provide for successful reentry into the academic or vocational mainstream upon and after release.” The webinar will take place at 1 p.m. on Sept. 14.

- 16th National Symposium on Juvenile Services, put on by the National Partnership for Juvenile Services. This year’s symposium will be held in San Antonio from Oct. 10-13. The agenda for this looks pretty good, especially the Wednesday sessions.

- Fundamental Fairness: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice, a nation conference on disproportionate minority contact that will be hosted by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice on Oct. 23-25 in Jersey City, New Jersey.

- Juvenile Justice in the Age of the Second Chance Act, the Youth Promise Act, and the JJDP Reauthorization Bill, a briefing hosted by the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy. Speakers include OJJDP Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski and former OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik, who oversees the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University. The briefing will take place at 10 a.m. on Oct. 26 at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.