June 01, 2006

Rakeem Washington

Juvenile Rights Project, Portland, OR

This summer, I used my PILP stipend clerking at the Juvenile Rights Project (JRP). The Juvenile Rights Project provides legal services to children and families without the means to retain counsel. The Juvenile Rights Project focuses on legal assistance in the areas of juvenile delinquency, juvenile dependency, and juvenile rights legislation.

From a defense perspective, JRP essentially serves as a juvenile public defender firm, and the majority of my work efforts at JRP were spent in the area of juvenile delinquency. I worked most days on Detention Alternatives. Juveniles arrested for various charges are held in the Multnomah County Juvenile Detention Facility in NE Portland. Working on Detention Alternatives required me to be the initial contact between juveniles held in detention and the attorneys assigned to represent them. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to leave the office and get practical experience meeting and interviewing clients. While conducting nearly 50 interviews over the summer, I gained valuable exposure to the essential skills of explaining rights to the accused, working through probable cause analysis, and preparing for judicial hearings. In addition, I gathered even more practical experience while meeting with district attorneys and juvenile department managers in order to find alternative placements to detention for our clients. It was a unique opportunity to observe and participate in the tense negotiation process that often happens between criminal defense attorneys and prosecuting attorneys.

Besides working on Detention Alternatives, I drafted memos, researched case law, and wrote short articles for the Juvenile Law Reader. I enjoyed my time at JRP, and was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to stay on throughout the fall to continue my work on Detention Alternatives. The Juvenile Rights Project proved an excellent match for beginners interested in the area of criminal defense.