UNL juvenile justice clinic expanding to help rural communities

The University of Nebraska's law department has been offering a helping hand when it comes to juvenile court and representing those who aren't old enough to help themselves. 
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) –The University of Nebraska’s law department has been offering a helping hand when it comes to juvenile court and representing those who aren’t old enough to help themselves.

“Trauma for children, child development, substance use, human trafficking, and all those issues are really prevalent in child welfare cases. We need attorneys with the knowledge and skills about those areas as well,” Michelle Paxton, the director of UNL’s clinic.

There’s a lot that goes into juvenile court, attorney’s having to represent kids in all different ages of life, from infants to teenagers.

For the last four years, the University of Nebraska law department has stepped up and allowed third year law students to help those kids who need someone to be their voice. The program has done so well, they’ve now decided to expand into rural communities in the state, an area that is fairly undeserved when it comes to juvenile court.

“Our colleagues continually in the rural part of the state voice their concern of the lack of services and lack of quality representation at times. Even a lack of attorneys who want to practice in juvenile court proceedings,” Roger Heideman, a judge in the Lancaster County Juvenile court, said.

In a recent study, 40% of juvenile court judges across Nebraska said they did not have sufficient numbers of high quality attorneys in juvenile court.

Through fundraising and grants, the university will now be able to provide the same guidance they do to UNL law students, to attorney’s working in the same field.

“We’ll apply the similar model that we’re doing in the clinic by having extensive education in all areas of child welfare and juvenile justice. The attorneys participating will also receive expert case consultation,” Paxton said.

The goal is to encourage more attorney’s in the rural parts of the state be a voice for the voiceless.

Categories: Nebraska News, News