Independent Auditors Give Court High Marks for Protecting Rights, Best Interests of Juveniles

CLAYTON – The St. Louis County Circuit Court has made substantial progress toward meeting the goals of a Memorandum of Agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice in December of 2016, according to an independent review released today.

The independent review gave the Court high ratings for:

• Developing a uniform process for the appointment of juvenile defense counsel;
• Hiring of an additional full-time defense attorney to represent juveniles;
• Best practices training for all appointed juvenile defense attorneys;
• Creating and implementing a statement of rights form to safeguard juveniles from self-incrimination;
• Prohibiting law enforcement interrogation of juveniles in the detention center; and
• Creating and adopting a uniform plea colloquy for judges when accepting a juvenile’s guilty plea.

“The court has taken significant steps to move toward compliance since the December 14, 2016 memorandum of agreement,” wrote Judge Arthur E. Grim, a Pennsylvania judge who is one of two independent auditors monitoring and rating the Court’s progress. “I could not have been more pleased with the collaborative and collegial nature of my interaction with everyone in the Court system.”

The Court is developing a new training curriculum for all deputy juvenile officers. Staff members will receive racial and ethnic fairness training in the fall. The Court is also in the process of improving the collection and reporting of data that track the number and disposition of cases involving minority youth in St. Louis County’s juvenile justice system.

The Court also received good marks for its “impressive juvenile justice information system,” from a second auditor, Mark A. Greenwald, Director of Research and Data Integrity at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice in Tallahassee, FL.

“As noted in the auditors’ report, the St. Louis County Family Court continues to make improvements to protect the constitutional rights and work in the best interests of kids who come into contact with the juvenile justice system,” said Ben Burkemper, Family Court Administrator. “We will continue to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice and the independent auditors to achieve our shared goals."

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement, progress reports will be issued every six months.

A link to the full review can be found here: