The Sumpter & Gonzalez Integrity Approach is a form of legal practice called Holistic Advocacy. Nowhere is this more important than in juvenile representation.
In juvenile cases, the holistic approach is particularly crucial because the explicit goal of Juvenile Court is rehabilitation. The court looks at all aspects of a child’s life – not just their legal issues – and, therefore, so do we.
From the outset of representation – from the time we are hired or appointed – clients and their parents and families meet with not only the legal team (attorneys and paralegals) but also with members of our social work team. The legal team will of course delve into the details leading to involvement with the juvenile justice system (incident events, the arrest, etc.) to determine all legal defenses and issues. Simultaneously, the social work team will explore the client’s background and the relationships in the family, any relevant educational issues, mental, emotional or physical health needs, etc. to come up with a case plan addressing whatever led the client to involvement in the juvenile justice system. The social work team will also work with the client to ascertain his/her strengths and long-term goals so that the case plan helps a client and his family support to work toward a successful future.
By creating a case plan early on in our representation, the social work team can help the attorneys really get to know a client; the better the attorney can know the client, the better our we can advocate to judges, probation officers, prosecutors, and educators. By distinguishing our clients from the beginning, we can make them more than just a case number or name on a legal file, and we can have greater impact on shaping the outcome of the overall case. By doing so, we have been able to achieve more dismissals, more reductions from felonies to misdemeanors, and more referrals to diversion programs or out of the court system altogether.