This week, I have taken note that I really appreciate working under Nicholette on juvenile cases dealing with felonies and misdemeanors. As public defenders for vulnerable kids like these, we have the opportunity to help them out in life. Attorneys, probation officers, judges, and social workers all work as a team to look out for the children’s best interests when family members fail to do so. Monday, we dealt with a neglect and delinquency case for a transgender young man (female to male). While at a mental health facility, the teen was accused of threatening to kill staff members and to run into the middle of a busy two way street.
Our people argued that because the teen wasn’t in good mental and emotional health at the time, she shouldn’t be criminalized for this and should rather be in placement for therapy. The prosecutor completely disagreed to this and argued to have the teen be punished. In order to further move the hearing along, the judge allowed for the father to have a say in what recommendations he believes will be best. However, during the call, the father went on to complain about his kid, saying “she has done emotional harm to my wife, to me. She has to take responsibility for her actions. She can’t come home if she continues her bad behavior”.
As result to these negative comments, the teen broke down in tears and had to leave the courtroom after the call. Fortunately, Judge Connors called the father out by stating he wasn’t looking out for his child’s best interests and would rather hang up on him. Afterwards, it was decided that the teen should be placed in programs that can give her emotional help, in addition to helping her out in transitioning to adulthood, as he’s almost 18 years old. After the hearing, it was made completely clear to me that the attorneys, probation officers, social workers, and judges are much more caring for the teen than his own family. Public defenders don’t only attempt to lessen the degree of charges onto their clients, they attempt have the judge find mercy on these clients, and look to what can improve in their lives, so as to avoid future legal involvement that can lead to criminalization.
Later this week, we lent a hand for one of our clients who was considered homeless, since her mother kicked her out of the house a couple months ago. When going through the process to get her food stamps and into a good housing program, I thought about others having to go through the same long progress and how much effort they had to have put into doing this. Just as a note, the application is a very long procedure, which is a bit justifiable, seeing that they have to offer government help to the right people. However, there were times where I thought the application was purposefully set up to weed people out by asking numerous difficult questions and setting up questions that can easily make it look like you don’t deserve government help.
For example, one question asked if the client was homeless and then proceeded to ask for the client’s address. If the client didn’t fill out the address portion, the application was determined to be incomplete, prompting her to have to fill out the address portion, even though she’s currently homeless. Witnessing the difficulty in accessing government help, I find it outrageous that some people actually believe the people who receive government help don’t deserve it. Clearly, people who sign up for help are in extreme need of it.