A paper from Professor Margareth Etienne, an expert on children and the law, examines how lawyers and parents compete for decision-making authority in juvenile criminal and delinquency cases in which there is disagreement between the two parties regarding legal strategy and potential outcomes.
It’s widely assumed – and courts have consistently affirmed – that parents and guardians act in the best interests of their children and have significant latitude in making decisions on how to raise them. But in the juvenile justice context, the traditional role of parental authority has been supplanted or nearly eliminated by the child’s attorney, said Etienne.
“That means that the lawyers for juveniles have to do what the children – not the parents – tell them to do,” she said. “What’s unique about that is we don’t have that expectation in any other occupation that involves children. Other professionals who work with children – teachers or doctors, for example – don’t have to deal with that. They have full, unfettered access to talk to parents about a child’s grades, behavior or medical condition.
“So there’s this exception for how adults engage with children when they are charged with criminal wrongdoing. But how do parents deal with that? How do lawyers deal with the fact that they may be ethically required to follow what their juvenile clients tell them to do, and that they’re not authorized to consult with parents? The law is clear on this issue, but this paper examines how the decision-makers actually manage those two opposing concepts.”
Read the full interview with Illinois News Bureau.