Georgia Bar Journal
GSB Vol. 13, NO. 5, Pg. 26.
The Prosecuting Attorney in Georgia's Juvenile Courts
GSB JournalVol. 13, NO. 5February 2007The Prosecuting Attorney in Georgia's Juvenile CourtsCharles C. OlsonAlthough the role of counsel for children in delinquency and other proceedings in juvenile court has been the subject of considerable discussion in legal publications in this state over the past several years, the role of the prosecutor in juvenile court has not been the subject of similar discussion or debate. There is an awareness in Georgia that children charged with a crime in juvenile court need access to an attorney, but little or no consideration has been given to the corresponding need to have a juvenile court prosecutor "participate in every proceeding . . . in which the state has an interest." Currently, Georgia law does not fully define the prosecutor's role or function in this state's juvenile courts. As a result, victims of crimes committed by juveniles receive significantly disparate treatment throughout the state.
Article VI, Section VIII, of the Georgia Constitution creates the office of district attorney and prescribes the duties of the office. It also provides that the district attorney will "perform such other duties as shall be required by law." Thus, the role of the district attorneys vis-A -vis the juvenile courts is narrowly prescribed by Georgia law and the Constitution. Although the district attorneys have total responsibility for the conduct of criminal proceedings once a case is bound over, they do not have comparable responsibilities in juvenile court. The district attorneys' only clear mandate is to represent the state if an appeal is filed from the juvenile court.
Prior to the enactment of the Juvenile Code in 1971, judges or probation officers conducted proceedings in juvenile court. The 1951 Juvenile Court Act did not provide for a prosecuting attorney. Although appellate court decisions indicate that the district attorneys represented the state in appeals from the juvenile court as early as 1932, generally, "no one was available to represent the state in delinquency proceedings in court . . . judge[s] . . . serv[ed] as both judge and prosecutor." It was not until 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in In re Gault that juveniles had a right to counsel in delinquency cases, that a need for lawyers, for either the prosecution or defense, was recognized. The need for a lawyer to present the case against an accused juvenile is still only partially recognized.
Although the 1971 Juvenile...