The Indiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges says the state needs to put more money into providing public defenders for juveniles.
Indiana Criminal Rule 25 mandates that juveniles in the court system must be provided a lawyer – often a public defender – in certain circumstances.
And those circumstances are so broad, Henry County Judge Mary Willis says it accounts for nearly all court proceedings involving juveniles. Willis is the president of the Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. She says a concern is that attorneys representing juveniles must meet certain qualifications, such as experience measured in years or number of trials.
“Not that we can just find a lawyer, but we can find qualified lawyers to take the juvenile cases, which is sometimes a challenge when you’re using some of the brand new lawyers to take juvenile public defense,” Willis says.
Hendricks County Judge Bob Freese says he’s concerned the increased cost that will come with the new requirements will be borne by counties.
“And so this is now going to mean that someone who’s getting paid woefully less than what they should be right now is now going to have an additional burden on them unless we can talk our council into increasing the funding,” Freese says.
Criminal Rule 25 goes into effect Jan. 1. The legislature will write a new budget next session.