July 24, 2019 — Juvenile defense attorneys were instructed on best practices to help defend their young clients last week during the 18th Annual Zealous Advocacy Conference at the University of Houston Law Center.
The two-day conference is an annual training seminar and the premier professional development training for juvenile defense attorneys practicing in the Southwestern United States.
"Our 18th annual Zealous Advocacy Conference was a complete success," said Ellen Marrus, director of the Center for Children, Law & Policy and Royce Till Professor of Law. "We reached more than 60 defenders — some who have been practicing in juvenile court for a long time, some new to the area, some criminal attorneys shifting to juvenile court, and some policymakers. The response from all was this was our best conference yet."
The event opened with a lengthy discussion on adolescent development. Marrus was joined by Amanda Powell, an attorney, trainer and juvenile defense consultant at the National Juvenile Defender Center. The talk referenced multiple academic studies that examined why youth engage in risk-taking behavior that can result in arrest and incarceration. Following this session, attorneys had the opportunity to practice developing arguments based on these concepts.
The following panel included Stacie Colling, a juvenile defense coordinator at the Colorado Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel, and Kameron Johnson, the chief juvenile public defender in Travis County. The focus of their talk was challenging the transfer of juveniles to adult court.
The first day concluded with a presentation on guilty pleas. Powell and Tracy Good '04 of The Good Law Firm, PLLC, were the speakers.
The seminar's second day began with Powell and Elizabeth Henneke, the executive director of the Lone Star Justice Alliance, discussing challenging juvenile statements.
The next discussion centered on challenging juvenile sex cases featured Chris Phillis, director of the Office of Public Defense Services, and Pam Vickery, executive director of Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys. The day concluded with a session on “Raising Race” conducted by Marrus and Johnson. Most sessions were followed by small breakout sessions that allowed attorneys to practice the skills they were learning.
The workshop was presented by the Law Center's Center for Children, Law & Policy and the Southwest Juvenile Defender Center. Attendees received 14.5 hours of continuing legal education credit, with a specialization credit in juvenile law.