News Release

The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center Receives the 2022 Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award From Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar

Washington, DC (Aug. 12, 2022) – The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center (PJDC) was presented with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ (NACDL) Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award at NACDL's 21st Annual State Criminal Justice Network (SCJN) Conference in Palm Beach, Florida on August 12th. The award recognizes an individual or group whose tremendous efforts have led toward progressive reform of a state criminal legal system.
The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center was founded in 1999 to address the widespread problems facing California’s juvenile justice system. PJDC supports and trains more than 1,600 juvenile court lawyers, appellate lawyers, law school clinical programs, and pro bono lawyers whose goal is to improve the quality of legal representation provided to the state’s youth. In addition to their advocacy to shrink and eventually close the state juvenile institutional system, prohibit the incarceration of youth for court order violations, address racial disparities, and eliminate solitary confinement, over the last 15 years, PJDC led the movement to end the tough-on-crime policy of transferring children to adult courts. Their work to end this practice consisted of a multi-pronged strategy including strategic litigation, amicus support, public education campaigns, and legislative reform. Due to their zealous advocacy, in 2020, just 25 youth were transferred to adult courts in the state of California, compared to 1,115 in 2009.
A core value of both PJDC and NACDL is to serve as leaders in reforming inequities in the criminal legal system and redressing systemic racism through our organizations’ unique ability to train and equip the defense bar to serve all accused persons at the highest level. In addition to training the defense bar, PJDC has been a leader in criminal legal system reform which has drastically improved the legal landscape in California. Michael Iacopino chair of NACDL’s State Legislative Affairs Committee stated: "PJDC’s work in California to improve the juvenile justice system through its direct support of lawyers and through legislative advocacy to advance needed policy reforms is what being a Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform is all about. NACDL is looking forward to continuing its work with PJDC and is hopeful all states can envision justice systems that prioritize rehabilitation and redemption over punishment."
"The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center has worked tirelessly to advance its mission of promoting justice for all youth by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense," said Monica L. Reid, NACDL’s Senior Director of Advocacy. "This dedication propelled PJDC to expand its work in pursuit of legislative reforms, working alongside grassroots coalitions, in collaboration with communities most directly harmed by our broken criminal legal system. And PJDC’s record speaks for itself, as they have achieved remarkable success in advancing systemic change to reduce the transfer of youth to the adult criminal system. As such, NACDL is honored to present the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center with its Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award."
In addition to their work addressing tough-on-crime policies, PJDC has increased the use of community-based services and continues to work with young people impacted by the legal system to elevate their voices, creating a system focused on second chances and healing.
Learn more about the Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award and view past recipients.

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Kate Holden, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Associate, (202) 465-7624 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.