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  • August 19, 2021

    Wisconsin’s Children Need You: The Juvenile Rural Access to Training and Expertise Program

    To combat a shortage in certified private practice attorneys available to help Wisconsin’s youth, the State Public Defender Office (SPD) is offering training in juvenile justice practice. Diane Rondini discusses the SPD’s new project, Juvenile Rural Access to Training and Expertise (J-RATE).

    Diane R. Rondini

    smiling teenager

    Want to make a difference in the life of a child and practice in a rewarding area of law, network with other lawyers helping Wisconsin youth, and get free CLE credits?

    Consider becoming involved in a new project, Juvenile Rural Access to Training and Expertise (J-RATE), created by the State Public Defender Office (SPD) and funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

    The Purpose of Juvenile Rural Access to Training and Expertise (J-RATE)

    The purpose of J-RATE is to increase the number and expertise of private bar attorneys accepting juvenile delinquency cases, particularly in rural areas – thereby enhancing access to quality juvenile delinquency representation in all areas of juvenile justice practice, including juvenile delinquency, collateral consequences, and juvenile appeals.

    Goals of J-RATE

    The overarching goal of J-RATE is to enhance defense capabilities of the private bar juvenile indigent defense delivery system in rural Wisconsin.

    Diane Rondini Diane Rondini, U.W. Law 1987, is recently retired after working 33 years with the Wisconsin State Public Defender, where she represented youth in the Milwaukee Juvenile Office, the Madison Trial Office, served as the juvenile/TPR liaison, and most recently as legal counsel.

    This will be accomplished by increasing the number of private bar attorneys in rural Wisconsin counties able to handle juvenile cases at both the trial and appellate level, by providing appropriate training and ongoing support to these attorneys.

    We hope to achieve outcomes for our system-involved youth that reduce recidivism rates in rural communities, by providing effective early representation to address legal, treatment, and rehabilitation needs consistent with the National Juvenile Defender Center Standards and the Wisconsin Core Principles.

    Lastly, we will inform all the partners of collateral consequences of the system, and provide the tools necessary to help youth overcome obstacles in employment, education, housing, and the military.

    The Importance of the Private Bar to SPD and Wisconsin Youth

    Private bar attorneys who accept appointments are an integral part of Wisconsin’s indigent defense system.

    Until recently, assigned counsel attorneys in the State of Wisconsin were compensated at the rate of $40 per hour, which was the nation’s lowest rate of hourly compensation. Considering that $40 rate and the cost of operating a law practice, it is unsurprising that there was a decrease in the number of attorneys willing to accept SPD appointments.

    Coupled with difficulties in recruiting and retaining attorneys from all areas of practice to locate in more rural parts of Wisconsin, there are negative effects on the rights of defendants, victims, the efficiency of the court system, and the budgets of both county and state-based criminal justice partners.

    This “constitutional crisis” included private attorneys accepting juvenile appointments. Appointment of counsel may be delayed, court hearings may be delayed, and access to meaningful rehabilitative disposition services may be delayed. As one rural practitioner commented, “It spirals and costs more in law enforcement prosecution, court time, and jails.”

    On Jan. 1, 2020, the private bar rate was increased to $70 per hour. With the increase in the private bar rate, the SPD has seen a greater interest in private bar counsel who accept SPD cases, including juvenile cases. But there remains a shortage in certified private practice attorneys available to help our children.

    The SPD is now faced with the need to recruit and train additional private bar attorneys to handle juvenile cases and for many private bar attorneys to develop and/or redevelop specialized expertise in the area of juvenile delinquency representation, and become active in their certification and acceptance of juvenile delinquency cases.

    Highlights of J-RATE

    The SPD will work with the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) to train 18 SPD staff as Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) trainers. In year one of the grant, these 18 juvenile law experts will provide recruited private practice attorneys a free one-day certification training. Topics of training will include implicit bias, detention hearing advocacy, client interviewing, role of counsel, competency of youth, disposition advocacy, post-disposition advocacy, and a region-specific JTIP lesson.

    In years two and three, SPD juvenile experts will circle back to each region and provide a half day of training in collateral consequences and a juvenile appellate certification. As part of the modified collateral consequences training, SPD will invite other juvenile justice system stakeholders, including prosecutors and judges.

    In addition, the SPD will create a Checklist for Youth Justice Defense Counsel, aimed to provide the minimum basics to consider when engaging in youth advocacy. The SPD will hire a collateral-consequences expert to research, draft, and produce a Wisconsin-specific juvenile delinquency collateral-consequences resource that will be made available to all public defenders, certified private bar attorneys, other private practitioners, prosecutors, judges, and policymakers.

    Scheduled J-RATE Trainings

    A few of the training dates have already been scheduled. They include:

    • Superior Region: Monday, Oct. 18, 2021

    • Eau Claire Region: Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021

    • Milwaukee Region: Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021

    • Stevens Point Region: Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022

    • Green Bay Region: Friday, Feb. 18, 2022

    Help Our Youth

    If you are a private practice attorney certified and on the SPD list, thank you – and please consider attending the training to support the great work you already do for Wisconsin youth.

    If you are a private practice attorney who hasn’t been certified for juvenile appointments recently, thank you for your past service. Please consider recertification, and attend the training as you return your legal practice to helping Wisconsin youth. If you have never been on the SPD private bar certification list but are interested in helping Wisconsin youth, welcome!

    Consider attending the training as you explore one of the most rewarding areas in the practice of law. Private bar attorneys throughout the state may express their interest in J-RATE training by completing this short interest survey by Sept. 3, 2021​. (The survey does not serve as registration for any training. It is simply a means for J-RATE to connect with interested private bar counsel.)

    If you have any questions about J-RATE or the trainings coming to your area, please contact J-RATE project coordinator Amanda Butler at or (720) 636-0455.

    This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Children & the Law Section Blog. Visit the State Bar sections or the Children & the Law Section webpages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.

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    Children & the Law Blog is published by the Children & the Law Section and the State Bar of Wisconsin; blog posts are written by section members. To contribute to this blog, contact Christie Christie and review Author Submission Guidelines. Learn more about the Children & the Law Section or become a member.

    Disclaimer: Views presented in blog posts are those of the blog post authors, not necessarily those of the Section or the State Bar of Wisconsin. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the State Bar of Wisconsin makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content.

    © 2024 State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.

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