Legal Aid provides civil legal aid in Lancaster County juvenile court. Legal Aid attorneys act as Guardian ad Litem – protecting the “legal and social” interests of children who have been abused, neglected, or committed involuntarily. Legal Aid attorneys also represent juveniles in law violation and truancy cases. In some cases, Legal Aid represents the parents in protecting their rights.
Legal Aid of Nebraska only accepts Lancaster County juvenile court cases under a contract with Lancaster County, and only when appointed by the juvenile court system.
Free access to counsel ends when a youth leaves of the Juvenile Justice System. It is important for youth who are aging out to have a plan for success and independence. Unfortunately, the collateral consequences of being involved in the Juvenile Justice System are a major stumbling block to gaining independence. The common collateral consequences that follow a former system-involved youth include difficulty with school reenrollments, finding employment, getting into college, and public housing restrictions.
We can provide free civil legal services for young people 24 years old or younger in Lancaster County who are reentering their communities after leaving the Juvenile Justice System. This project helps young individuals overcome the collateral consequences of having a juvenile record in order to have the best chance of success, independence, and moving on with their lives.
The Juvenile Reentry Project focuses on the areas of record sealing, education, and landlord/tenant law:
- Record sealing
Juvenile records are open to the public if they are not sealed. That means future employers, education institutes, and landlords will be able to see them when they complete background checks. What is on a record may cause them not to hire, accept, or lease to an individual. We can meet individually with youth by appointment. Or we can meet with clients during walk-in clinic hours at agencies, youth centers, and group homes. During an appointment or in the clinic, we can teach clients why record sealing is important and show them what is on their record. If the client is a good candidate for sealing, we can represent them at their hearing for free. If they are not eligible for sealing, we teach them how talk about their record to future employers, education institutes, and landlords.
Being involved in the Juvenile Justice System makes school enrollment difficult. We can represent youth at reenrollment or transfer meetings and assist with credit transfers. We can help with school discipline by advocating against suspension, expulsions, and transfers. In addition, we can assist with school violations of due process rights. Lastly, we can help with special education services. This would include evaluation requests, advocacy in IEP meetings, and holding schools accountable for violations of their obligation to provide a free and appropriate education.
- Housing & Landlord/Tenant
Having a juvenile record can make it difficult to find housing or may exclude an individual from public housing. We can assist individuals with finding housing. We can look over leases before youth sign and assist with getting rental deposits back. We can educate youth on their tenant rights and obligations and the rights and obligations of their landlords. We can assist with getting landlords to make necessary repairs. Lastly, we can help prevent evictions and provide representation at court hearings.