Trial Defense Guidelines: Representing a Child Client Facing a Possible Life Sentence are the first-ever guidelines for representing children who face our country’s harshest penalty. These Guidelines were drafted in close collaboration with attorneys and advocates from across the nation.
Children are constitutionally and developmentally different from adults, making the representation of children in adult court facing a life sentence a highly specialized area of legal practice. However, many court structures and personnel — including prosecutors and judges — fail to account for the characteristics of childhood.
The objective of the Guidelines is to set forth a national standard of practice to ensure zealous, constitutionally effective representation consistent with the standards established by the Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama. The Guidelines draw from the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases in the capital context and the NJDC National Juvenile Defense standards in the juvenile court context.