Juvenile Court Legal Unit
The Legal Unit consists of two full-time attorneys, one part-time attorney, and a victim/witness coordinator. The Legal Unit provides representation, both in and out of court, to the Greene County Juvenile Office and each deputy juvenile officer in all of their hearings. As well, the unit keeps the office informed of current and proposed legislation and new appellate court decisions to ensure that practices in place at the office are current, relevant and legally accurate.
In the Courtroom
In 2011, the legal unit attorneys appeared before the court in 3022 hearings. The breakdown between units is as follows: 564 delinquency hearings, 2302 abuse and neglect hearings, and 156 were termination of parental rights cases. The legal unit was also involved in 21 appeals; the majority of these cases were before the Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals.
Present at each abuse and neglect hearing in the courtroom are the juvenile office attorney, deputy juvenile officer, guardian ad litem, the parents or custodians, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and a children's division case worker. Each party represents a different interest and could speak to the judge during the hearing. The minor child may or may not attend the hearing, but are represented by a guardian ad litem, a court appointed attorney who represents the child's best interests. The parents are represented. If they can not afford an attorney, the court appoints one for them at no cost.
Parties present in the courtroom in delinquency cases are the juvenile office attorney, the deputy juvenile officer, the probation officer, the parents or custodians, the juvenile and the juvenile's attorney. Juveniles have the right to be represented and to have their parents present. Juveniles unable to afford an attorney are appointed a public defender to represent them. The juvenile's parents are not provided attorneys, but can hire one.
In abuse and neglect cases as well as juvenile delinquency cases, the goal of the case differs from a civil trial or an adult criminal proceeding. The purpose of the Juvenile Court is not to get a money judgment or to punish people for criminal acts, but rather to insure the safety of the community and provide prevention, intervention, and protective services to children and families.
Outside the Courtroom
Juvenile staff attorneys are responsible for preparing all pleadings associated with the cases as well as all of the appeals that stem from those cases.
A final duty of the juvenile staff attorneys is to provide legal advice for the Juvenile Office Staff. Since the needs of the Juvenile Office do not end at 5 p.m., a staff attorney is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.