News & Updates

Open City Advocates Seeks Staff Attorney
May 13, 2024 | Erin Stewart

Open City Advocates (OCA) provides youth-centered legal defense and holistic advocacy for young people after sentencing in the juvenile justice system. This approach combines lawyering, advocacy, and mentoring to better guide youth through the system and set them up for success. OCA’s client-centered approach is foundational to the various systemic reform issues that we tackle with the juvenile justice system and the broader juvenile social service ecosystem.

OCA provides holistic legal representation to youth who have been committed to the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). We tackle racial inequity in our juvenile justice system where it is most extreme, as 100% of youth who are committed to DYRS are youth of color. Based on the knowledge we gain from our direct client services, we then spearhead systemic reform efforts to end the revolving door of the juvenile and criminal justice systems, safeguard and expand due process protections, and encourage individualized, trauma-responsive services for court-involved youth. In 2020, the DC Court of Appeals ruled in our favor in our longstanding impact litigation case, In re N.H.M. (224 A.3d 581 (2020)). As a result of this decision, youth in DC’s juvenile justice system now have a clearly established right to an attorney throughout their commitment to DYRS.

To actualize this right to counsel, OCA has partnered with DC’s Family Court to create a Post-Commitment Juvenile Attorney Panel, as a part of which OCA’s staff attorneys provide specialized, court-appointed representation to youth committed to DYRS. OCA is now hiring a Staff Attorney to assist with implementation of the panel.

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