Friday, February 22, 2019

Juvenile Judge Declares "Mission Accomplished"

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 10:44 AM

click to enlarge Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael declared “mission accomplished” during his annual state of the court address Friday. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael declared “mission accomplished” during his annual state of the court address Friday.
Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael declared “mission accomplished” during his annual state of the court address Friday, touting last year’s ending of federal oversight.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ended its six-year review of the court in October. The oversight began in 2012, after an investigation found that the court discriminated against African-American children, violated due process laws, and that the detention center was dangerous.

”I thank you, personally, for your all of your outstanding efforts over the past year, and declare mission accomplished,” Michael said at the Shelby County Crime Commission office Friday. “The Department of Justice has placed us in compliance with the memorandum of agreement to the point of its completion and ended federal monitoring of the juvenile court of Memphis and Shelby County.”
The move to end that oversight outraged some in Shelby County government. During a press conference in October, Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner said that while the oversight was over, “there were items that remained to be addressed.”

“So, this whole notion that it was a successful closure, I think is somewhat fabricated,” Turner said.
Michael said the court is recognized nationally as a model court by the National Council of of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, of which Michael is a board member.

”We’ve earned this not only by exhibiting care and compassion on a daily basis, but we also strive to become better by taking risks,” Michael said. “A model court doesn’t mean we’re a stand-out. It means that we experiment. If something doesn’t work, we move on and find something that does work. That’s what makes us a model court.”

Michael outlined five key components — made in collaboration with DOJ officials — that will carry the court forward.

Two of these were groups that will meet continually to improve the court. The strategic planning committee and the county-wide Juvenile Justice Consortium will have “access to the courthouse and the families we serve,” Michael said. The group will be able to “see our successes and aid us in shaping any shortfalls we may encounter.”

A community outreach program “will allow every citizens to get the answers to their questions about what we do and how we do it.” For this, the court will hold public meetings throughout the county.

Michael said the court will also continue to work with two consultants hired by Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris to help the court ”maintain best practices” and to “reduce (disproportionate minority contact.”

Michael said he fully supports Mayor Harris’ and the county commission’s project to build a new juvenile court facility.

In a line that seemed to be aimed at court employees, Michael said, “let’s use criticism and unfair judgments about us as step-in stones that ahead of this court.”

Michael ended his address with a quote from industrialist Henry Ford:

"Coming together is a beginning," Michael said. "Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

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