What's Wrong with Children's Rights

What's Wrong with Children's Rights

What's Wrong with Children's Rights

What's Wrong with Children's Rights

Excerpt

I AM a product of the 1960s. The various ways in which that decade has influenced my life are unworthy of an entire book. But in one particular sense the social upheavals of that remarkable decade had a profound and lasting impact on me: as soon as I graduated from law school in 1971, I joined a new field of practice very much still being invented. I became a children's rights lawyer.

Children's rights lawyers came into being only a few years earlier because of a landmark Supreme Court case holding that children accused of being juvenile delinquents in juvenile court have a constitutional right to free court-assigned counsel if their parents are too poor to hire a lawyer themselves. Until then, juvenile court, an invention of the early twentieth century, eschewed lawyers for children because they were regarded as an obstacle to furthering a child's best interests. In re Gault changed this in one dramatic decision and, as a consequence, created the need for thousands of lawyers to work in a previously nonexistent field.

I began my professional life working in the largest office devoted to representing children in the United States, a legal services office for children in New York City. Two years after beginning my first job, I was fortunate to be asked to create and teach the Juvenile Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law. Working under my supervision, students in the clinic represented children in delinquency and other legal matters in New York's Family Court. In . . .

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