State Sen. John Yudichak joined Governor Tom Corbett and state Sen. Lisa Baker Monday at the Luzerne County Courthouse as Senate Bill 815, which requires legal counsel be present at juvenile delinquency hearings, was signed into law.
"Minors will no longer be able to waive their right to an attorney when appearing in Pennsylvania juvenile courts," said Yudichak. "To see the look in their eyes when they had to turn to their parents after hearing that they would be shackled, and immediately taken out of the court and imprisoned at a juvenile justice facility is unimaginable.
"Senate Bill 815 is another step toward restoring confidence in our juvenile justice system. The right to counsel is a fundamental principle of our democracy and now the law ensures that no child is left standing before a judge without representation," he added.
The new law requires counsel must be provided for a child who appears at a hearing without counsel and counsel for the child cannot be waived. If a party other than a child appears at a hearing without counsel the court will be required to decide whether the child knows of their right to counsel.
Last week Corbett signed Senate Bill 818, which requires juvenile court judges to state on the record the reasons behind a disposition order. Senate Bills 815 and 818 were part of a legislative package introduced to enhance the juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania.
The bills were created in response to the 2008 "Cash for Kids" scandal that resulted in the wrongful incarceration of numerous juveniles and, ultimately, the imprisonment of two former Luzerne County judges.