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Seminar on Strategic Juvenile Justice Litigation - the U.S. Experience

10th January 2011

10012011Strategic Litigation US Marsha LevickIPRT and PILA co-hosted an inspiring seminar with speaker Marsha Levick on the experience of strategic juvenile justice litigation in the United States, on Monday 10th January 2011.

Marsha spoke to a packed house on the experiences of her work with the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, a nationally recognized leader in juvenile law in the U.S., over the last 35 years. Catherine Ghent, solicitor and children's rights advocate, responded from the Irish perspective.

[L-R: Catherine Ghent; Marsha Levick (JLC); Larry Donnelly (PILA); Liam Herrick (IPRT). Photo: Tom Innes]

Marsha was in Ireland to support the establishment of a Child Law Clinic with Ursula Kilkelly at the Faculty of Law, University College Cork. The Child Law Clinic is an initiative supported by NAIRTL, the National Academy for the Integration of Research and Teaching and Learning.

Marsha Levick - biography

Marsha Levick co-founded Juvenile Law Center in 1975, and currently serves as its Deputy Director and Chief Counsel. Juvenile Law Center is the oldest public interest law firm for children in the United States. For more than 30 years, Levick has been an advocate for children’s and women's rights and is a nationally recognized leader in juvenile law. Levick has authored or co-authored numerous appellate and amicus briefs in state and federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, as well as several scholarly articles on children’s rights issues. Levick co-authored the lead child advocacy briefs in both Roper v Simmons, where the US Supreme Court outlawed the juvenile death penalty in 2005 and, more recently, Graham v Florida, where the US Supreme ruled the sentence of life without parole unconstitutional for juveniles convicted of non homicide crimes.

Levick has also played a central role in the Luzerne County Pennsylvania juvenile court judges’ corruption scandal, often referred to as the “Kids for Cash” scandal. Two juvenile court judges were criminally charged with accepting nearly $2.9 million in illegal kickbacks and bribes from the co-owner and developer of two for-profit juvenile correctional facilities. The illegal scheme spanned a five year period, 2003-2008, and involved the lives of approximately 4,000 children who appeared before one of the corrupt judges. The kickbacks were paid in exchange for a steady flow of children to the two facilities, assuring the profitability of the two centers. Throughout, children were routinely and systematically denied their constitutional right to counsel, to plead guilty only after a proper colloquy on the record, and their right to appear before an impartial tribunal. Juvenile Law Center secured the reversal and expungement of all of the children’s cases and records by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and is pursuing civil damages for the children and their families in a federal civil rights class action.

Levick serves on the boards of the National Juvenile Defender Center; Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana; Southern Poverty Law Center; and the advisory board of Rutgers-Camden Law School's Juvenile Justice Clinic. Levick has received numerous awards for her work, including the 2006 Temple Women's Law Caucus Professional Achievement Award; the 2008 Pennsylvania Bar Association Child Advocate of the Year Award; the 2009 Foundation for the Improvement of Justice Award; the 2009 Philadelphia Bar Association’s Andrew Hamilton Award; the Philadelphia Inquirer Citizen of the Year, 2009 (co-recipient), the 2010 American Association for Justice Leonard Weinglass Award and the 2010 American Bar Association Livingston Hall Award. Levick is an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Temple Beasley School of law.

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