Cases & Deals

Children's policy issues get passed with new legislation regarding juveniles' due process and fair notice

Clients Public Policy and Law Center Legislative Fellows Program

In connection with the Children at Risk Public Policy and Law Center (PPLC)'s Legislative Drafting Initiative, Sara Keegan of Jones Day Houston, drafted a bill that passed unanimously by the Texas House and Senate and was signed into law on by Governor Perry on June 19, 2009. The bill takes effect September 1, 2009.

Sara's bill (introduced as Senate Bill 518) was drafted to ensure due process to juveniles who the State seeks to try as adults, forcing the prosecutors to provide due notice of its attempt to certify them as adults and providing defense counsel with ample time to prepare a defense at the certification hearing. Currently, Texas law does not provide for reasonable notice to juvenile defense counsel prior to the certification hearing. Even worse, juvenile defense counsel are provided a mere 24-hours to review documents prior to certification hearings. As a result, prosecutorial efforts to try a child as an adult tend to be simply rubber-stamped, providing defense counsel with little if any ability to challenge the prosecutor's decision. Her bill amends the law in order to provide due process and fair notice.

Sara drafted the proposed legislation, completed considerable research, drafted a White Paper, presented her findings to Harris County prosecutors, judges, legislators and child advocacy groups, lobbied Senators and House Representatives and was asked to testify before the Senate Jurisprudence Committee.

In February 2008, both Sara and Chris Palamountain were selected as fellows in PPLC's Legislative Drafting Initiative. The goal of the 2008-2009 Legislative Fellowship Program was to develop strong proposals for new legislation benefiting the children of Houston and Texas for the 81st Texas Legislature.

Candidates for the Legislative Fellows Program went through a selective application, interview, and training process and made a commitment to the Program through the end of the next legislative session (Summer 2009). The Fellows were given one policy project with the following specific expectations: participation in a legislative training session, periodic committee meetings with senior attorneys and CEOs of nonprofit organizations, responsibility for a designated children's policy issue including conducting research on that issue and producing written materials including memoranda, draft legislation, testimony, fact sheets, and a status report (including recommendations for interim changes) at the end of the session. Chris and Sara worked with the PPLC's standing committee on Juvenile Justice. At the conclusion of the 2008-2009 Legislative Fellowship Program, Sara was recognized for her contributions and "for her dedication and willingness to speak out for Houston's children."