The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) was created in 1999 to respond to the critical need to build the capacity of the juvenile defense bar and to improve access to counsel and quality of representation for children in the justice system. In 2005, the National Juvenile Defender Center separated from the American Bar Association to become an independent organization. NJDC gives juvenile defense attorneys a more permanent capacity to address practice issues, improve advocacy skills, build partnerships, exchange information, and participate in the national debate over juvenile crime.

NJDC provides support to public defenders, appointed counsel, law school clinical programs and non-profit law centers to ensure quality representation in urban, suburban, rural and tribal areas. NJDC offers a wide range of integrated services to juvenile defenders, including training, technical assistance, advocacy, networking, collaboration, capacity building and coordination.

NJDC Mission

To promote justice for all children by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense.

Statement of Beliefs

NJDC believes that a strong juvenile defense delivery system is a vital mechanism for ensuring that:

  • All children in the justice system have ready and timely access to skilled, well-resourced, well-trained lawyers;
  • All children are afforded full protection of their constitutional, statutory and human rights;
  • All children receive legal representation that is client-centered, individualized, developmentally and age appropriate, and free of bias; and
  • All children have opportunities to attain their potential to become productive members of society.

For these reasons, NJDC believes that the juvenile defense bar must:

  • Enhance its skill, capacity, and commitment to professionalism;
  • Cultivate leadership to promote accountability and bring about reform in the juvenile justice system; and
  • Build collaborations, partnerships, and community involvement to advance the juvenile defense delivery system.

Vision Statement

NJDC works to create a strong juvenile defense delivery system where:

  • The representation of children is specialized and resources and opportunities exist for juvenile defenders to fully exercise and enhance their legal, management, leadership, and advocacy skills;
  • All children are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness;
  • Juvenile courts are knowledgeable, sensitive, and responsive to the needs of children;
  • Juvenile defenders have parity of resources, compensation and opportunity for advancement with adult defenders and prosecutors; and
  • Excellence is routine.


NJDC Board of Directors

Bridgett Ortega, President
Atlanta's John Marshall Law School

Angela Vigil, Vice President
Baker & McKenzie, LLP

Jacqueline Baillargeon, Treasurer
Juvenile and Criminal Justice Consultant

Ryan Myers, Secretary
Pretlow Myers Financial Group

Randy Hertz
New York University School of Law

Wallace Mlyniec
Georgetown University Law Center

Patricia Puritz, ex officio
National Juvenile Defender Center

Kenneth L. Schmetterer

John J. Wilson
Institute for Intergovernmental Research

Gerald Gault
Honorary Member

NJDC Staff

Patricia Puritz
Executive Director

Rey Cheatham Banks
Program and Development Associate

Sarah Bergen
Staff Attorney

Timothy Curry
Managing Attorney

Shannon McNeil
Project Assistant

LaNita McWilliams
Staff Attorney

Mary Ann Scali
Deputy Director

Nadia Seeratan
Senior Staff Attorney & Policy Advocate

David Shapiro
Gault Fellow

Sonia Slone
Office Administrator

Rebecca Trent
Senior Staff Attorney

Equity Project
Christina Gilbert, Director

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