Established in 2016 by Christine Henningsen and Joy Suder, both former assistant public defenders in Douglas County, Nebraska Youth Advocates (NYA) serves as a resource center for juvenile defense attorneys in Nebraska, promoting best practices in the juvenile justice system. Project activities include training, technical assistance, legislative advocacy, and resource development. Project goals are to improve juvenile defense skills and practice in both direct court/legal activities and in the attorney-client relationship. Procedural Justice, fair and respectful treatment in the attorney-client relationship, is a guiding framework for the project.
Specialized trial advocacy training for Nebraska juvenile attorneys is a key focus of NYA. In collaboration with the National Juvenile Defender Center, NYA has developed a group of Nebraska attorneys who are certified to deliver the Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) Curriculum.
NYA provides caselaw and legislative updates. NYA staff will review and provide brief summaries of new juvenile appellate cases and pending juvenile legislative bills.
A variety of resources have been made available and will continue to be developed for Nebraska attorneys by the NYA. A number of sample motions are currently available and the NYA is available to offer specific technical assistance to attorneys regarding motions and other case specific advocacy methods. Also, a Nebraska juvenile defender listserv has been created to provide a forum to discuss case strategies and other Nebraska-specific issues.
Procedural Justice serves as a guiding framework for NYA. Attorneys play a fundamental role in protecting youth’s legal rights and, regardless of legal outcome, in helping young people learn that the legal system is a fair system.
The NYA project is being evaluated to assess whether it is meeting its goals of creating a network of trained attorneys, increasing court focused legal activities of attorneys, and improving the perceptions of youth regarding their attorneys.