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Florida New Juvenile Defender Attorney Manual

Published May 21, 2013, Juvenile Justice Center

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The 1820s and 1830s saw the first establishment of special institutions for children in the United States. These “Houses of Refuge” accepted children for a variety of reasons, including delinquency. The first statewide juvenile court was established in Illinois in 1899.3 Other states soon followed and by 1945 all states had established juvenile courts, which had jurisdiction over some combination of delinquency, status offense, and dependency cases. These early juvenile courts were founded under the doctrine of parens patriae (parent of the country), which viewed the state as the child’s “guardian” and resolved cases in an informal, non-adversarial setting with the child’s best interests as the guiding standard for the decision making. Florida first established a juvenile court in 1914; however, they did not bring delinquency into that court system until 1950.

The primary goal of the manual is to assist attorneys who represent juveniles by providing an overview of issues that may impact them in their work. This manual is meant to highlight issues that are juvenile specific and does not include information regarding general trial skills (e.g. opening statements, cross examinations, and rules of evidence) that all public defenders should be competent in their practice as a lawyer.

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