Ambrose Law Firm Senior Associate Attorney, Adam Kujawa, hopes his schedule is empty in the morning. When he shows up to the office and sees an open calendar, it means no kids got arrested the night before. Adam works as a part-time public defender in juvenile court. His agenda was not clear. It was full. Kids got arrested.
Using the word “kids” is more fitting because “juvenile” takes away the true innocence of these children as young as twelve or thirteen. These kids often make a mistake landing them in juvenile detention. A deputy shuttles them into the courtroom, one-by-one, from a side door. What awaits them is an imposing courtroom with adults all peering and focusing on the child. Only one set of eyes is truly there for them, their lawyer.
These kids need someone in their corner on one of the worst days of their life. Often, no family, friends, or caretakers are there for them. With neither a support system, nor an ability to advocate for themselves, they rely heavily on their lawyer. We shall not underestimate the importance and need for adequate representation for these underprivileged children. They need people like Adam and other defense attorneys to protect their ability to get justice.
As an aspiring lawyer, this experience only surged my interest in criminal defense. After observing this system in action, it has not left me. There is a need for reform, to improve the current system that acts too often as a system. These children tumble in-and-out of the juvenile justice merry-go-round.
Observing the juvenile justice system was an eye opening and jarring experience. Criminal defense attorneys should not be viewed as an enemy of the state or its people. They should not be seen as people who are preventing criminals from receiving punishment, but rather as someone working toward the best outcome for everyone involved. In a system where the deck is stacked against a child, these attorneys are often the only people trying to get their client a fair shot. These kids need zealous representation. These kids need justice.
Abigail Rostamo is an intern at Ambrose Law Firm, PLLC in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is entering her junior year at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She has made the Dean’s List every semester and has a 3.8 GPA. She founded the Debate and Mock Trial Team in 2019; is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success; and is a member of Enactus. Juvenile Lawyer MN; Woodbury Criminal Defense Lawyer; and Juvenile Criminal Attorney MN.