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Middleton Center for Children’s Rights to host panel commemorating landmark Gault case

April 14, 2017

Drake University Law School’s Joan and Lyle Middleton Center for Children’s Rights will host a panel to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case In Re Gault.

The panel is scheduled for May 3, 5-6:30 p.m., at the Neal & Bea Smith Law Center courtroom. Light refreshments will be served at a reception following the event.

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children have the constitutional right to legal counsel in juvenile court. The case involved Jerry Gault, a 14-year-old who was given a seven-year sentence for a prank phone call.

Fifty years later, Iowa is a national leader in right to counsel issues for juveniles. Iowa’s rights are consistent with best practices and are broader than the right to counsel in many other states.

However, challenges remain to ensure Gault’s promise is fulfilled. According to Brent Pattison, associate clinical professor and director of the Middleton Center for Children's Rights, children are slow to trust their lawyers in juvenile court. They are also prone to waive the right to remain silent in police interactions and are more likely to make false confessions than adults.

In addition, juvenile lawyers must have a comprehensive understanding not only of the law, but of social services available for children and families, as well as important aspects of child development.

“In spite of Iowa’s leadership on right to counsel issues for juveniles, representing children presents unique challenges for lawyers,” Pattison said. “This panel will explore the strengths and weaknesses of our current system and the continuing struggle to ensure every child has access to skilled, high-quality legal representation.”

Pattison will moderate the panel, which will feature the following local juvenile court experts:

  • Ashley Artzer, Juvenile Court Officer III, 5th Judicial District
  • Shawna Johnson, Assistant Story County Attorney
  • Paul White, Assistant Public Defender
  • Judge Colin J. Witt, Polk County Juvenile Court

The event has applied for 1.0 hour of CLE credit.

The Middleton Center for Children’s Rights is sponsoring the event, with support from the Drake Association of Child Advocates and the Public Interest Law Association.

For more information, contact Brent Pattison at or 515-271-1810.

Established in 2001, the Joan and Lyle Middleton Center for Children's Rights advances children’s rights by providing legal representation to children in child welfare and delinquency matters, advocating for legislative changes, and providing multidisciplinary training in the area of children’s rights.

Learn more about the Middleton Center for Children’s Rights.