Juvenile Court
There are two kinds of cases involving minors the come before the juvenile court, which is a court specially designed to handle these matters, and these matters only, and once the juvenile court has jurisdiction over the case, all other legal proceedings and courts have to defer to the juvenile courts: Dependency cases, involving abandoned, abused and neglected children; and delinquency cases, involving crimes committed by minors. Frequently, issues as to what should be done with the child come up, even while other court proceedings are pending. For example, while a foster parent is trying to adopt the child, the child, who is not getting along well with the foster parent, "acts out" in committing a crime and winds up in juvenile hall. Does the juvenile judge, who has the last word over the adoption judge, send the child back to the foster parent or "suitably place" the child in some other setting. Or perhaps the foster parent is abusing the child, raising the same questions.

In the delinquency court, there are special rules that do not apply in adult criminal court: there is no right to a jury trial; a minor who is found "fit" for juvenile court (i.e. his/her age and the relatively less serious nature of the crime justify treating the child as a juvenile rather than an adult) is handled with a more social work approach rather than being treated as a hardened criminal the maximum period of confinement for any crime as a juvenile is age 25, and alternatives to long-term jail sentences are attempted, such as home on probation, a short stay in juvenile hall or camp rather than California Youth Authority, which is a prison for the most serious youthful offenders; and there is no right to bail. Thus, there are strategy considerations when representing a minor charged with a serious crime: on the one hand, if convicted as an adult offender, the punishment may be more severe; on the other hand, as an adult, the minor is entitled to bail pending trial and to a trial by jury. A lawyer representing a youthful offender also has the flexibility to explore creative sentencing options, including inpatient psychiatric or drug counseling, work release, school release, and other options.

In dependency court, there are also special rules governing "suitable placement" of the child and "family reunification" on the one hand, alternative placement, such as with a relative on the other, or in extreme cases of abuse, termination of the rights of the parental rights, including custody and visitation, as to the abusing parent. Here more than ever the lawyer, whether representing the abusing parent, the other parent, the child, or in some cases other persons who are seeking custody, needs to be sensitive, experienced and multidisciplinary in approach, legal, psychological, sociological, cross-cultural, and other. Few lawyers have the background, training, education and experience to do this; I believe I do.