The Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic was founded in 1973, a mere six years after the Supreme Court extended the right to counsel to children in its landmark case In re Gault. One of the first law-school-based clinics specializing in children’s issues, the Juvenile Justice Clinic seeks to fulfill the mandate of Gault by defending children accused of crime and delinquency in the District of Columbia. Clinic faculty, fellows, and students provide highly effective holistic representation to their clients.

Over its five decades, the Clinic has also become a leading voice in formulating local and national policy. In 2015, the Clinic established the Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Initiative to tackle the most pressing issues facing the juvenile legal system, including the over-criminalization of youth, the racial and economic disparities that exist within the system, and the inadequate legal representation far too many youth receive. The Initiative advances new policies and programs to assist young people and trains youth defenders across the nation while the Clinic continues its core mission of training law students and representing youth. Operating at the national, regional, and local level with a primary focus on racial justice, the Juvenile Justice Initiative advocates for a smaller, better, and more just juvenile legal system in the District of Columbia, the Mid-Atlantic region, and across the country. Clinic leadership, including former Director Wally Mlyniec, current Director Kristin Henning, and Policy Director Eduardo Ferrer, have collaborated with other youth defense leaders to draft and lobby for youth-appropriate legislation, develop national youth defense standards, and produce comprehensive training materials including the Youth Defender Advocacy Program (YDAP) curriculum. The Initiative also houses the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Gault Center and the annual YDAP Summer Academy.

The Initiative has launched a number of projects designed to advocate for youth of color in the juvenile legal system and train youth defenders on emerging racial justice issues, such as implicit racial bias and the criminalization of normal adolescent behaviors, the traumatic impact of policing on youth of color, and other legal issues at the intersection of race and adolescence. In partnership with the Gault Center (formerly the National Juvenile Defender Center), the Initiative leads the Ambassadors for Racial Justice program to provide youth defenders with resources, training, and support to raise race in their individual advocacy and broader systemic reform; a Racial Justice Toolkit for Youth Defenders with regularly updated resources, including sample pleadings, annotated bibliographies of research, and case law summaries; and a Racial Justice Training Series, providing free training webinars for youth justice advocates. In 2022, each month of the series focused on a different chapter from Director Kristin Henning’s book The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth. You can watch recordings of the series and learn more about their racial justice projects by going here.

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