RESOLUTION OF THE PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION SUPPORTING EFFORTS TO IMPROVE THE RIGHT TO COUNSEL FOR JUVENILES

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association is committed to ensuring youth are treated fairly and are afforded all the protections of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions; and

WHEREAS, recent events in Luzerne County highlighted the importance of youths' access to competent, qualified counsel; and

WHEREAS, while 2009 data show that roughly 99% of Pennsylvania youth are represented by counsel in juvenile court, in Luzerne County, over a five-year period, well over half of youth appeared without counsel; and

WHEREAS, many youth in Luzerne County were denied counsel because their parents' income exceeded the guidelines for appointment of a public defender; and

WHEREAS, there exists no statewide funding for juvenile indigent defense and counties are therefore obligated to provide compensation for attorneys appointed in juvenile delinquency cases; and

WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare this fiscal year discontinued paying any portion of cost for juvenile indigent defense; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill No. 815, Printers No. 833 would provide for an unwaivable right to counsel for juveniles; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 850, Printers No. 1043 presumes youth indigent for purposes of appointing counsel and prohibits the Commonwealth from inquiring into the family's financial resources when ascertaining whether the alleged delinquent child has means to pay for his own counsel; and

WHEREAS, House Bill 861, Printer's No. 899 mandates the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to share the cost of indigent juvenile defense with counties;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association urges the General Assembly to prohibit youth from waiving their right to counsel; to provide for a presumption of indigence for youth when appointing counsel; and to provide a dedicated funding stream for indigent juvenile defense in delinquency proceedings;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports passage of Senate Bill No. 815, Printer's No. 833; Senate Bill No. 850, Printers No. 1043 and Senate Bill No. 861, Printer's No. 899 and any similar legislation in furtherance of the above-stated goals;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes and directs the Chancellor to take any and all appropriate steps in furtherance of this Resolution, including communication of its position to the Governor, members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the general public.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: May 26, 2011