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Are our kids getting the best legal representation possible?

Written by Greater Cleveland Congregations

Kids have the right to an attorney, and they deserve the best representation possible. A policy group called The Wren Collective has released a new report that proves what we’ve known for a while.

We know the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office is good at what they do. They have more experience working with children, and they have the resources and dedication to better represent kids in court, especially when it comes to youth bindover. And it’s not like they’re overwhelmed or anything. In fact, they’re actively seeking to take on more cases. They want to help our kids, and they’re better at it. Yet the courts are assigning private attorneys to handle juvenile cases, and they’re just not as good at it. It’s a huge problem. 

According to the Executive Summary of “Gideon at 60: Advancing the Right to Counsel for Kids in Cuyahoga County”: 

“The county has a strong and well-resourced public defender, but the juvenile court arbitrarily curtails the number of kids the public defender can represent.

  • On the whole, the private attorneys the court assigns instead of the public defenders are not providing similarly robust representation, and there is little oversight to ensure that they do.
  • Even if those private attorneys were providing excellent representation, the appointment process in Cuyahoga undermines the integrity of every attorney-client relationship it creates. A process that allows judges to routinely choose the lawyers who get assigned cases turns judges into “employers” and runs the risk that attorneys will work to please them instead of their clients.”

The Wren Collective also suggests a way forward. 

Stephanie Casanova and Rachel Dissell over at Signal Cleveland are doing some excellent reporting on this issue, and the eye-opening report from the Wren Collective is more than worth a read. 

We will keep driving forward on this issue, working towards justice and equity for our kids. Let’s make Greater Cleveland greater for all of us. 



  1. Every child accused of a crime has a right to an attorney. Is Cuyahoga County providing the best possible representation? - Stephanie Casanova and Rachel Dissell | Signal Cleveland
  2. How Cuyahoga County picks attorneys to represent children accused of crimesStephanie Casanova and Rachel Dissell | Signal Cleveland