Congress Passes Reauthorization of JJDPA
On December 14th, Congress passed H.R. 6964, a bill that reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Last authorized in 2002, the JJDPA sets forth critically important federal guidance on the safe treatment of youth involved in the justice system. A sample of the notable changes to the JJDPA contained in the bill includes:
  • States must collect data and establish plans to address racial and ethnic disparities (changing the previous focus on disproportionate minority contact).
  • States must ensure, within three years of the law's enactment, sight and sound separation and jail removal for youth charged as adults who are awaiting trial or other legal processes (expanding the protection beyond youth held on juvenile court charges).
  • States must submit plans that: are supported by or take account of the science regarding adolescent development; provide alternatives to detention; engage families in service delivery; use community-based services to serve at-risk or system-involved youth; and promote evidence-based and trauma-informed programs and practices.
  • States must implement plans, within two years of the law's enactment, to eliminate the use of restraints on pregnant girls housed in secure detention and correctional facilities.
The bill now goes to the desk of the President for final signature before becoming law.

This article was originally published by the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform on December 14, 2018 and is included here with express permission from CJJR.  Colorado receives JJDPA funding, read more about the Council that administers the money HERE
Governor Hickenlooper Grants Commutation to Curtis Brooks, Terrance Wilder, and Nathan Ybanez
Curtis Brooks
In 1997, a judge sentenced 17-year-old Curtis Brooks to die in prison for a crime he committed when he was just 15, under the felony murder statute that makes a person guilty for the death of another, even an unintentional death, if it happened during the commission of another specified crime.  
After the U.S. Supreme Court held that automatic life without parole sentences for juveniles violated the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment in Miller v. Alabama (2012), the Colorado General Assembly waited four years to fix Colorado's sentencing law, even though there was no question it was unconstitutional. In 2016, over strident objections from many elected District Attorneys across the state, the General Assembly passed a law that meant the 16 people in Mr. Brooks's position were eligible for resentencing. Under this law, the court could resentence them to life with the possibility of parole after 40 years, or-if the court found extraordinary mitigating circumstances-a determinate sentence of between 30 and 50 years, followed by 10 years of parole.
When Mr. Brooks asked for resentencing, the same prosecutors who testified against the law filed a lawsuit in the Colorado Supreme Court, arguing that the law was unconstitutional. But the Court sided with Mr. Brooks and upheld the law. On December 14, just three days before his resentencing hearing, Governor Hickenlooper granted him a limited commutation. Under the terms of the Governor's grant, Mr. Brooks will be released on parole July 1, 2019. After serving five years on parole, he will have completed his sentence.
As is true every time the courts acknowledge that the myth of the super-predator is not the true face of the kids who end up tried as adults in the criminal system, it was the unswerving commitment of many members of our Colorado juvenile defense community that made it possible for Curtis Brooks to get his life back. Hollynd Hoskins, Dru Nielsen, Sean Connelly, Ashley Ratliff, David Nuss, Bethany Neal, Leela Orbidan and Steve Kuzma were all part of the defense team that won this victory. And credit is also due to Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, who courageously filed an amicus brief in the Colorado Supreme Court arguing that the resentencing statute was constitutional, bucking the elected DAs in the 1st, 4th and 18th judicial districts who argued that it was not.

Terrance Wilder
In 1998, Terrance Wilder was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 144 years, for his role in the deaths of two Denver men. Mr. Wilder, then 17 years old, was from a rural farming community in western Tennessee and had no prior juvenile or criminal history. Mr. Wilder left home and moved to Denver to be close to his biological father, who he had only recently learned existed. Mr. Wilder was arrested and charged with first degree murder within just three months of his arrival in Denver.
In 2015, Mr. Wilder engaged in restorative justice with Dr. and Mrs. Gordon England, the parents of one of the victims in his case. The Englands forgave Mr. Wilder and continue to provide support and friendship throughout his quest to obtain legal relief. Mr. Wilder keeps in touch with Dr. and Mrs. England through letters back and forth. The Englands continue to tirelessly advocate for Mr. Wilder's release from DOC.
Mr. Wilder was re-sentenced in 2017 to life with the possibility of parole after 40 years, plus 144 years, with a new parole eligibility date of 2104. However, on December 21, 2018, Governor Hickenlooper noted this was simply another life sentence, and commuted Mr. Wilder's sentence, directing the parole board to make Mr. Wilder parole eligible after the initial 40-year sentence. In doing so, Governor Hickenlooper urged the parole board to release Mr. Wilder, calling him a "prime example of extraordinary rehabilitation" who "illustrates our hope for every offender who spends time in the Department of Corrections." This victory for Mr. Wilder was the result of his dedication to remorse, rehabilitation, self-improvement, and positivity. Dr. and Mrs. Gordon England were instrumental in assisting Mr. Wilder in the preparation and submission of his successful clemency application.
Mr. Wilder's legal defense team includes Brad Junge, Ruth Summers, and Kyle Varvil. This team has represented Mr. Wilder since 2011. They successfully argued, in 2015, that Mr. Wilder's mandatory sentence to life without parole, based on his conviction of first degree murder after deliberation committed when he was a juvenile, was unconstitutional. His sentence was vacated under the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama. See People v. Wilder. Unfortunately this published case was reversed by the Colorado Supreme Court in People v. Tate. Mr. Wilder's legal team then litigated his sentence status. The court determined, against the argument of defense counsel, the only sentence that could be assessed was life with the possibility of parole after 40 years, plus 144 years. Mr. Wilder's defense team is currently appealing this determination by the court.

Nathan Ybanez
In 1999, a district court judge sentenced 17-year-old Nathan Ybanez to die in prison after a jury convicted him of first degree murder in the death of his mother. Despite serious questions about whether his trial counsel afforded him effective assistance of counsel, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected his request for post-conviction relief in 2018. However, on December 21, 2018, Governor Hickenlooper commuted his sentence, making him eligible for parole December 1, 2020. Governor Hickenlooper also wrote to the parole board to express his belief that Mr. Ybanez is a worthy candidate for parole and to urge the parole board to release him.
At Mr. Ybanez's original trial, his lawyer presented no evidence of the serious child abuse that had poisoned his young client's childhood. It wasn't until after the verdict that courts heard evidence about the verbal, sexual and physical abuse Mr. Ybanez had suffered as a young boy at both his parents' hands. Perhaps, given the fact that Mr. Ybanez's trial lawyer was being paid by his father, this omission isn't surprising. But it underlines the importance of making sure that only experienced juvenile defense teams with the proper training undertake these types of serious cases, so that juries hear all of the circumstances that underlie such charges before deciding if the prosecution has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Chad Williams, a partner at Davis, Graham & Stubbs, has worked tirelessly on Mr. Ybanez's post-conviction litigation for years. Chad and his firm are heroes for taking their pro bono obligations seriously. Mr. Ybanez's recent commutation would never have happened without his legal team's commitment to their client, and without Mr. Ybanez's own determination to spend the last 19 years in prison furthering his education and proving that he is someone who has much to offer society outside of prison walls.

Spotlight on CJDC Direct Representation

CJDC would like to welcome its new Education Law Staff Attorney, Elie Zwiebel. We are very happy to have Elie join our burgeoning direct representation practice and bring a needed spotlight on ending the school to prison pipeline.  Elie brings a wealth of understanding and experience to CJDC.  He has already begun assisting students throughout the Denver metro area in school discipline and special education cases.  If you know of anyone who needs representation in these areas, email Elie at .
The Education Law Project - Education First - is up and running.  This program is made possible by a generous grant from the Nord Family Foundation.  We are taking referrals for cases that involve students who are being suspended or expelled from school, as well as students who are need of special education services.  CJDC has begun to reach out to its community partners to publicize our services as well as continue our commitment to youth in Colorado.
The Believe in Youth program continues to represent those who wish to expunge their juvenile records or petition to deregister from the sex offender registry, where the underlying registration requirement arose from a juvenile conviction.  We are accepting new clients and can send client information to Jeff Cuneo at  In addition, attorneys who would like work in this area - especially those in El Paso and Weld counties - can also contact Jeff for more information.
Trump Administration to end Obama-era School Discipline Policies

Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, is planning to roll back Obama-era policies intended to ensure minority children are not unfairly disciplined.  The Obama administration policies were adopted in response to growing evidence that minority students received more suspensions and tougher punishments than white students for the same or lesser offenses, at the same time disabled students were too quickly being shunted into remedial or special-education programs. 

CJDC is strongly opposed to rescinding these policies.  Although progress has been made, serious racial disparities still exist in student discipline.  CJDC has been working with the Denver Foundation, school districts, and community organizations to end these racial disparities and continue the progress toward restorative and inclusive classroom and school site practices.
Thank You CJDC Community!
For over a decade, CJDC has elevated the practice
of juvenile defense and advocacy by holding up juvenile
defense as a skilled specialty practice, presenting continuing legal education seminars, developing resources and materials or juvenile defenders and advocates, and by supporting indigent defense though ongoing litigation support and assistance.

Last month, we asked for your support during our Annual Fund Drive. Thank you to our community for helping us raise much-needed funds on #GivingTuesday, #COGivesDay, and through online donations.

Thank you for continuing to support our work into 2019 and beyond!
Upcoming Events and Trainings
When Your History Follows You: Record Sealing CLE

January 18, 2019
Denver, CO
Register HERE

Human trafficking survivors are forced to suffer arrests and convictions as a result of being trafficked-and are then forced to live with the long-term impacts.  Results from the National Survivor Network Member (NSNM) Survey reveal that 80% of survivors face barriers with employment and 50% of survivors face barriers with housing.  We can help.  On January 18, in honor of National Human Trafficking Month, CJDC is partnering with the Colorado Women's Bar Association (CWBA), ALIGHT (Alliance to Lead Impact In Global Human Trafficking), and the CCDB (Colorado Criminal Defense Bar) to train attorneys on how to help human trafficking survivors (and others) seal records of convictions and expunge juvenile delinquency records so that they no longer present a barrier to gainful employment and housing.