2021 California Rules of Court
Standard 5.40. Juvenile Court Matters
(a) Assignments to juvenile court
The presiding judge of the superior court should assign judges to the juvenile court to serve for a minimum of three years. Priority should be given to judges who have expressed an interest in the assignment.
(b) Importance of juvenile court
The presiding judge of the juvenile court, in consultation with the presiding judge of the superior court, should:
(1) Motivate and educate other judges regarding the significance of juvenile court.
(2) Work to ensure that sufficient judges and staff, facilities, and financial resources are assigned to the juvenile court to allow adequate
time to hear and decide the matters before it.
(Subd (b) amended effective January 1, 2007.)
(c) Standards of representation and compensation
The presiding judge of the juvenile court should:
(1) Encourage attorneys who practice in juvenile court, including all court-appointed and contract attorneys, to continue their practice in
juvenile court for substantial periods of time. A substantial period of time is at least two years and preferably from three to five years.
(2) Confer with the county public defender, county district attorney, county counsel, and other public law office leaders and encourage
them to raise the status of attorneys working in the juvenile courts as follows: hire attorneys who are interested in serving in the
juvenile court for a substantial part of their careers; permit and encourage attorneys, based on interest and ability, to remain in juvenile
court assignments for significant periods of time; and work to ensure that attorneys who have chosen to serve in the juvenile court
have the same promotional and salary opportunities as attorneys practicing in other assignments within a law office.
(3) Establish minimum standards of practice to which all court-appointed and public office attorneys will be expected to conform. These
standards should delineate the responsibilities of attorneys relative to investigation and evaluation of the case, preparation for and
conduct of hearings, and advocacy for their respective clients.
(4) In conjunction with other leaders in the legal community, ensure that attorneys appointed in the juvenile court are compensated in a
manner equivalent to attorneys appointed by the court in other types of cases.
(Subd (c) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted effective July 1, 1992.)
(d) Training and orientation
The presiding judge of the juvenile court should:
(1) Establish relevant prerequisites for court-appointed attorneys and advocates in the juvenile court.
(2) Develop orientation and in-service training programs for judicial officers, attorneys, volunteers, law enforcement personnel, court
personnel, and child advocates to ensure that all are adequately trained concerning all issues relating to special education rights and
responsibilities, including the right of each child with exceptional needs to receive a free, appropriate public education and the right of
each child with educational disabilities to receive accommodations.
(3) Promote the establishment of a library or other resource center in which information about juvenile court practice (including books,
periodicals, videotapes, and other training materials) can be collected and made available to all participants in the juvenile system.
(4) Ensure that attorneys who appear in juvenile court have sufficient training to perform their jobs competently, as follows: require that all
court-appointed attorneys meet minimum training and continuing legal education standards as a condition of their appointment to
juvenile court matters; and encourage the leaders of public law offices that have responsibilities in juvenile court to require their
attorneys who appear in juvenile court to have at least the same training and continuing legal education required of court-appointed
(Subd (d) amended effective January 1, 2001; adopted effective July 1, 1989; previously amended and relettered effective July 1, 1992.)
(e) Unique role of a juvenile court judge
Judges of the juvenile court, in consultation with the presiding judge of the juvenile court and the presiding judge of the superior court, to the extent that it does not interfere with the adjudication process, are encouraged to:
(1) Provide active leadership within the community in determining the needs of and obtaining and developing resources and services for
at-risk children and families. At-risk children include delinquents, dependents, and status offenders.
(2) Investigate and determine the availability of specific prevention, intervention, and treatment services in the community for at-risk
children and their families.
(3) Exercise their authority by statute or rule to review, order, and enforce the delivery of specific services and treatment for at-risk
children and their families.
(4) Exercise a leadership role in the development and maintenance of permanent programs of interagency cooperation and coordination
among the court and the various public agencies that serve at-risk children and their families.
(5) Take an active part in the formation of a communitywide network to promote and unify private and public sector efforts to focus
attention and resources for at-risk children and their families.
(6) Maintain close liaison with school authorities and encourage coordination of policies and programs.
(7) Educate the community and its institutions through every available means, including the media, concerning the role of the juvenile
court in meeting the complex needs of at-risk children and their families.
(8) Evaluate the criteria established by child protection agencies for initial removal and reunification decisions and communicate the
court's expectations of what constitutes "reasonable efforts" to prevent removal or hasten return of the child.
(9) Encourage the development of community services and resources to assist homeless, truant, runaway, and incorrigible children.
(10) Be familiar with all detention facilities, placements, and institutions used by the court.
(11) Act in all instances consistent with the public safety and welfare.
(Subd (e) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted effective July 1, 1989; previously relettered effective July 1, 1992.)
(f) Appointment of attorneys and other persons
For the appointment of attorneys, arbitrators, mediators, referees, masters, receivers, and other persons, each court should follow rule 10.611 and the guidelines of standard 10.21.
(Subd (f) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted effective January 1, 1999.)
(g) Educational rights of children in the juvenile court
The juvenile court should be guided by certain general principles:
(1) A significant number of children in the juvenile court process have exceptional needs that, if properly identified and assessed, would
qualify such children to receive special education and related services under federal and state education law (a free, appropriate
public education) (see Ed. Code, § 56000 et seq. and 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.);
(2) Many children in the juvenile court process have disabilities that, if properly identified and assessed, would qualify such children to
receive educational accommodations (see § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 [29 U.S.C. § 794; 34 C.F.R. § 104.1 et seq.]);
(3) Unidentified and unremediated exceptional needs and unaccommodated disabilities have been found to correlate strongly with
juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, mental health issues, teenage pregnancy, school failure and dropout, and adult unemployment
and crime; and
(4) The cost of incarcerating children is substantially greater than the cost of providing special education and related services to
exceptional needs children and providing educational accommodations to children with disabilities.
(Subd (g) adopted effective January 1, 2001.)
(h) Role of the juvenile court
The juvenile court should:
(1) Take responsibility, with the other juvenile court participants at every stage of the child's case, to ensure that the child's educational
needs are met, regardless of whether the child is in the custody of a parent or is suitably placed in the custody of the child welfare
agency or probation department and regardless of where the child is placed in school. Each child under the jurisdiction of the juvenile
court with exceptional needs has the right to receive a free, appropriate public education, specially designed, at no cost to the
parents, to meet the child's unique special education needs. (See Ed. Code, § 56031 and 20 U.S.C. § 1401(8).) Each child with
disabilities under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court has the right to receive accommodations. (See § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973 [29 U.S.C. § 794; 34 C.F.R. § 104.1 et seq. (1980)].) The court should also ensure that each parent or guardian receives
information and assistance concerning his or her child's educational entitlements as provided by law.
(2) Provide oversight of the social service and probation agencies to ensure that a child's educational rights are investigated, reported,
and monitored. The court should work within the statutory framework to accommodate the sharing of information between agencies. A
child who comes before the court and is suspected of having exceptional needs or other educational disabilities should be referred in
writing for an assessment to the child's school principal or to the school district's special education office. (See Ed. Code, §§ 56320–
56329.) The child's parent, teacher, or other service providers may make the required written referral for assessment. (See Ed. Code, §
(3) Require that court reports, case plans, assessments, and permanency plans considered by the court address a child's educational
entitlements and how those entitlements are being satisfied, and contain information to assist the court in deciding whether the right
of the parent or guardian to make educational decisions for the child should be limited by the court under Welfare and Institutions
Code section 361(a) or 726(b). Information concerning whether the school district has met its obligation to provide educational
services to the child, including special educational services if the child has exceptional needs under Education Code section 56000 et
seq., and to provide accommodations if the child has disabilities as defined in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C.
§ 794; 34 C.F.R. § 104.1 et seq. (1980)) should also be included, along with a recommendation for disposition.
(4) Facilitate coordination of services by joining the local educational agency as a party when it appears that an educational agency has
failed to fulfill its legal obligations to provide special education and related services or accommodations to a child in the juvenile court
who has been identified as having exceptional needs or educational disabilities. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 362(a), 727(a).)
(5) Make appropriate orders limiting the educational rights of a parent or guardian who cannot be located or identified, or who is unwilling
or unable to be an active participant in ensuring that the child's educational needs are met, and appoint a responsible adult as
educational representative for such a child or if a representative cannot be identified and the child may be eligible for special
education and related services or already has an individualized education program, use form JV-535 to refer the child to the local
educational agency for special education and related services and prompt appointment of a surrogate parent. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§
361, 726; Ed. Code, § 56156.)
(6) Ensure that special education, related services, and accommodations to which the child is entitled are provided whenever the child's
school placement changes. (See Ed. Code, § 56325.)
(Subd (h) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted effective January 1, 2001; previously amended effective January 1, 2004.)
Standard 5.40 amended and renumbered effective January 1, 2007; adopted as sec. 24 effective January 1, 1989; previously amended effective July 1, 1992, January 1, 1999; January 1, 2001, and January 1, 2004.
Advisory Committee Comment
Subdivision (a). Considering the constantly evolving changes in the law, as well as the unique nature of the proceedings in juvenile court, the juvenile court judge should be willing to commit to a tenure of three years. Not only does this tenure afford the judge the opportunity to become well acquainted with the total juvenile justice complex, but it also provides continuity to a system that demands it.
Dependency cases under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 for the most part last 18 months. The juvenile court judge has a responsibility to oversee these cases, and a single judge's involvement over this period of time is important to help ensure positive results. The ultimate goal should be to perfect a system that serves the needs of both recipients and providers. This can only be done over time and with constant application of effective energy.
Subdivision (b)(2). The juvenile court is an integral part of the justice system. It is only through the constant exertion of pressure to maintain resources and the continuous education of court-related personnel and administrators that the historic trend to minimize the juvenile court can be contained.
Subdivision (c)(4). The quality of justice in the juvenile court is in large part dependent on the quality of the attorneys who appear on behalf of the different parties before the court. The presiding judge of the juvenile court plays a significant role in ensuring that a sufficient number of attorneys of high quality are available to the parties appearing in juvenile court.
Juvenile court practice requires attorneys who have both a special interest in and a substantive understanding of the work of the court. Obtaining and retaining qualified attorneys for the juvenile court requires effective recruiting, training, and employment considerations.
The importance of juvenile court work must be stressed to ensure that juvenile court assignments have the same status and career enhancement opportunities as other assignments for public law office attorneys.
The presiding judge of the juvenile court should urge leaders of public law offices serving the juvenile court to assign experienced, interested, and capable attorneys to that court, and to establish hiring and promotional policies that will encourage the development of a division of the office dedicated to working in the juvenile court.
National commentators are in accord with these propositions: "Court-appointed and public attorneys representing children in abuse and neglect cases, as well as judges, should be specially trained or experienced. Juvenile and family courts should not be the 'training ground' for inexperienced attorneys or judges." (Metropolitan Court Judges Committee, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Deprived Children: A Judicial Response-73 Recommendations (1986) p. 14.)
Fees paid to attorneys appearing in juvenile court are sometimes less than the fees paid attorneys doing other legal work. Such a payment scheme demeans the work of the juvenile court, leading many to believe that such work is less important. It may discourage attorneys from selecting juvenile court practice as a career option. The incarceration of a child in a detention facility or a child's permanent loss of his or her family through a termination of parental rights proceeding is at least as important as any other work in the legal system. Compensation for the legal work in the juvenile court should reflect the importance of this work.
Subdivision (d)(4). Juvenile court law is a specialized area of the law that requires dedication and study. The juvenile court judge has a responsibility to maintain high quality in the practice of law in the juvenile court. The quality of representation in the juvenile court depends in good part on the education of the lawyers who appear there. In order to make certain that all parties receive adequate representation, it is important that attorneys have adequate training before they begin practice in juvenile court and on a continuing basis thereafter. The presiding judge of the juvenile court should mandate such training for all court-appointed attorneys and urge leaders of public law offices to provide at least comparable training for attorneys assigned to juvenile court.
A minimum of six hours of continuing legal education is suggested; more hours are recommended. Education methods can include lectures and tapes that meet the legal education requirements.
In addition to basic legal training in juvenile dependency and delinquency law, evidentiary issues, and effective trial practice techniques, training should also include important related issues, including child development, alternative resources for families, effects and treatment of substance abuse, domestic violence, abuse, neglect, modification and enforcement of all court orders, dependency, delinquency, guardianships, conservatorships, interviewing children, and emancipation. Education may also include observational experience such as site visits to institutions and operations critical to the juvenile court.
A significant barrier to the establishment and maintenance of well-trained attorneys is a lack of educational materials relating to juvenile court practice. Law libraries, law offices, and court systems traditionally do not devote adequate resources to the purchase of such educational materials.
Effective January 1, 1993, guidelines and training material will be available from Judicial Council staff.
Subdivision (e)(11). A superior court judge assigned to the juvenile court occupies a unique position within California's judiciary. In addition to the traditional role of fairly and efficiently resolving disputes before the court, the juvenile court judge is statutorily required to discharge other duties. California law empowers the juvenile court judge not only to order services for children under its jurisdiction, but also to enforce and review the delivery of those services. This oversight function includes the obligation to understand and work with the public and private agencies, including school systems, that provide services and treatment programs for children and families. As such, the juvenile court assignment requires a dramatic shift in emphasis from judging in the traditional sense.
The legislative directive to juvenile court judges to "improve system performance in a vigorous and ongoing manner" (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 202) poses no conflict with traditional concepts of judicial ethics. Active and public judicial support and encouragement of programs serving children and families at risk are important functions of the juvenile court judge that enhance the overall administration of justice.
The standards in (e) are derived from statutory requirements in the following sections of the Welfare and Institutions Code as well as the supplementary material promulgated by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and others: (1) Welfare and Institutions Code, sections 202, 209, 300, 317, 318, 319, 362, 600, 601, 654, 702, 727; (2) California Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4; (3) Metropolitan Court Judges Committee, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Deprived Children: A Judicial Response-73
Recommendations (1986), Recommendations 1–7, 14, 35, 40; and (4) National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Child Welfare League of America, Youth Law Center, and the National Center for Youth Law, Making Reasonable Efforts: Steps for Keeping Families Together pp. 43–59.