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Juvenile Division

 

The Juvenile Division of the Cuyahoga County Office of the Public Defender provides representation in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court for children accused of crimes and for parents facing abuse, neglect, or dependency allegations from Children and Family Services. The Division is composed of approximately 25 Attorneys, a team of Social Workers, support staff, an investigator, law clerks and social work interns. Our goal is to protect and defend the fundamental rights, liberties, and dignity of each client and family that we serve.


The Juvenile Division Supervisor is Salvatore “Sam” Amata. Sam Amata has been the Supervisor of the Juvenile Division, training and molding lawyers to be zealous advocates for Juvenile Court clients, for 30 years. Mr. Amata constantly strives to ensure the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Public Defenders provide the highest quality of representation for their clients and he has improved a number of issues in juvenile defense that help protect clients’ rights, including reducing shackling of youth in courtrooms and increasing access to counsel for youth in detention. Mr. Amata graduated from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and has been a longtime adjunct professor at Cleveland State University. Mr. Amata has extensive experience representing youth in all phases of delinquency proceedings and parents in all phases of Children’s Services cases.


The Juvenile Division is located at 9300 Quincy Avenue, 5th Floor, Cleveland Ohio, 44106. If you are a current client with questions, please contact your attorney. If you are looking for legal assistance with or have a question about a Juvenile Court case, please either submit a question via email or contact us at (216) 443-7295


Juvenile Attorneys - (216) 443-7295
Sam Amata - Division Director (216) 443-5802 samata@cuyahogacounty.us
Britta Barthol (216) 698-3221 bbarthol@cuyahogacounty.us
James Besenyei (216) 443-8364 jbesenyei@cuyahogacounty.us
Pat Bunce (216) 443-5066 pbunce@cuyahogacounty.us
Zen Canaday (216) 443-7831 zcanaday@cuyahogacounty.us
Brenden Carlin (216) 443-5298 bcarlin@cuyahogacounty.us
Joseph Coburn (216) 698-2463 jcoburn@cuyahogacounty.us
James Evans (216) 443-3653 jevans@cuyahogacounty.us
Sarah Gatti (216) 443-8374 sgatti@cuyahogacounty.us
Todd Glassman (216) 443-5042 tglassman@cuyahogacounty.us
Amy Hollaway (216) 443-5055 ahollaway@cuyahogacounty.us
Sarah Honig (216) 443-4750 shonig@cuyahogacounty.us
Michael Hustick (216) 443-7493 mhustick@cuyahogacounty.us
John Hyland (216) 443-3096 jhyland@cuyahogacounty.us
Margaret Isquick (216) 443-3099 misquick@cuyahogacounty.us
Rachel Kalayjian (216) 443-8391 rkalayjian@cuyahogacounty.us
Sara Klosterman (216) 443-5800 sklosterman@cuyahogacounty.us
Anthony Nicholson (216) 698-3210 anicholson@cuyahogacounty.us
Gus Rini (216) 443-3088 grini@cuyahogacounty.us
Elissa Schooler (216) 698-2455 eschooler@cuyahogacounty.us
Jennifer Simmons (216) 443-3588 jsimmons@cuyahogacounty.us
Timothy Smanik (216) 698-2631 tsmanik@cuyahogacounty.us
Tiffany Smith (216) 698-5058 tlsmith@cuyahogacounty.us
Rachel Tallmadge (216) 443-7125 rtallmadge@cuyahogacounty.us
Anne Wells (216) 698-2543 awells@cuyahogacounty.us
Leah Winsberg (216) 443-7551 lwinsberg@cuyahogacounty.us

 

Social Work Division
Jacquelyn Gould - Juvenile Supervisor (216) 443-3475 jgould1@cuyahogacounty.us
Tunisia Currie - Juvenile (216) 443-3084 tcurrie@cuyahogacounty.us
Kenny Kinder - Juvenile (216) 443-3089 kkinder@cuyahogacounty.us
Keara Mullen - Juvenile (216) 443-3097 kmullen@cuyahogacounty.us

Scope of Our Representation


Our Attorneys are assigned by the Court and represent children and parents in regular dockets and specialty dockets, including Teen and Family Drug Court, Phoenix Court, Re-Entry Court, and in Safe Harbor cases.


We defend children in “delinquency” cases—where the State is prosecuting a child for an offense, including cases where the State seeks to “bindover” the child and prosecute the child in adult court.


We defend parents and legal custodians in “abuse, neglect, dependency” cases where Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (“CFS”) is seeking to remove children, change custody, or terminate parental rights.


The Juvenile Division does NOT provide representation for individuals involved in custody disputes, traffic cases, paternity determinations—these are not cases where it is required for the court to appoint counsel. We do not generally handle child support matters; however, our Attorneys are appointed by the Court in limited cases to represent adults facing jail time for non-payment of child support.


Juvenile Delinquency Cases - What to Expect


A child, like an adult, has a constitutional right to remain silent when questioned about alleged criminal activity. Do NOT speak with the police, detectives, or other law enforcement without an attorney present with you—if you don’t have an attorney to protect you, you might say something to police that can be used against you in court. You should simply say, “I do not want to talk” and continue to say that in response to any questions.


Although a child, accused of criminal activity, has the right to receive an appointed attorney, the attorney is generally not going to be appointed until arraignment, which is the first court hearing. If a police officer tries to speak with you before you have an attorney, you should simply say “I do not want to speak with you until I have an attorney.”


Please be aware that conversations that you have with teachers, school staff, and Resource Officers are NOT confidential and can be used against you in court.


If you want more information on your rights when dealing with law enforcement, please visit https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights


Once the child gets an attorney, the child’s conversations with the Attorney are protected by confidentiality. The Attorney represents the child’s wishes. The Attorney will need to speak privately with the child, however, the child will rely on their parent or guardian to help guide their decisions in the case.

 

When you are charged with a felony offense, you have a constitutional right to be represented by counsel. If you cannot afford an attorney, the trial court will appoint one (either the Public Defender’s Office or private appointed counsel). When counsel is appointed, you do not have the right to choose your attorney. You do, however, have the right to expect your appointed counsel to represent you vigorously.


A successful attorney-client relationship is built on trust over time. It requires communication and understanding between the attorney and the client. Please consider the following tips for understanding and fostering that relationship:


You have the right to expect your attorney to:

  • Communicate with you regularly and respond to your phone calls or letters in a timely manner
  • Protect the confidentiality of attorney-client communications
  • Investigate your case (including review discovery provided by the State)
  • Review the facts and evidence of your case with you
  • Tell you about any plea offers in full detail
  • Be punctual for all court dates and personal appointments
  • Provide accurate information about the judge and prosecutor assigned to your case
  • Provide advice on pros and cons of different options (e.g. plea versus trial)
  • Vigorously advocate for you throughout your case

You can help get the best possible result by:

  • Providing complete and accurate information
  • Responding to phone calls from your attorney (remember to check your voicemail)
  • Providing your attorney with any updated contact information
  • Appearing at every court date and meeting on time
  • Asking questions about the case and potential outcomes
  • Refraining from discussing your case with anyone other than your attorney
  • Not posting any information about your case on social media

You have the right to decide the following:

  • Whether to accept a plea or go to trial
  • Whether to testify at trial
  • Whether to waive a jury
  • Whether to appeal

When you are represented by an attorney, the attorney will decide (with your input):

  • What motions to file
  • How to investigate a case
  • How to conduct the trial (what jurors to select, what witnesses to call, what evidence to present, what questions to ask)
  • The central theme of your defense

Arraignment is the first hearing with the Court after a child has been charged in a delinquency case. The State charges juveniles by filing a complaint with the Court, and lists all charges, or violations of the law. Remember, these are just allegations.


If a child is arrested and held in the Detention Center, the arraignment hearing is held the next business day, Monday – Friday, at 9:00 a.m. on the first floor of the Juvenile Justice Center. Our Attorneys represent all children, who are being held in the Detention Center, at that arraignment hearing. If your child is not being held in the Detention Center, you will receive the notice of your arraignment date by certified mail—at that hearing, be sure to ask for an attorney for the child.


At the hearing, the court will advise the child of their rights and the child will enter a “denial” to the allegations in the complaint. The Court will decide where the child is placed pending the next court hearing—a child can be released home to a parent or guardian, released home with home-detention monitoring, sent to a shelter-care facility, or remain in the Detention Center.


The child’s case will be randomly assigned to a judge, who may assign a different attorney to represent the child for the rest of the case, if the family cannot afford to hire an attorney.


If your case is assigned to the Public Defender, you will be given a specific Attorney—you can call (216) 443-7295 to learn the name and contact information for the Public Defender assigned to your case. You must provide your best and current contact information to the Office. Not all cases are assigned to the Public Defender. Private defense attorneys – referred to as “assigned counsel” – also get cases assigned to them by the Court. If you have assigned counsel, that person does not work for the Public Defender.


After the arraignment, you will receive a date for a pre-trial hearing to take place with your assigned Judge—this starts an individualized process, you and your attorney will work through together.

 

An Adjudication is the hearing where the Court hears evidence and makes a decision about the facts of the complaint.


In a delinquency case, this is either 1) a trial where the State has to prove evidence of the charges in the complaint, or 2) a plea hearing where the child “admits” to charges. Finding a child “delinquent” is the Juvenile term for “guilty.”


In a delinquency case, if a child is found “delinquent,” disposition is the hearing where the Court issues orders, otherwise known as a sentencing hearing. Potential dispositions are dependent on the case and child, but can include incarceration (at a juvenile prison facility or in the local Detention Center), residential treatment, or probation and community monitoring.

 

In certain delinquency cases, the State can file for a bindover—where the prosecutor asks the Court to transfer the child’s case from Juvenile Court to Adult Court, to be tried and sentenced as an adult. If a bindover is filed in your case, the case will go through a different process—ask your attorney to explain the bindover process to you.

 


Communicating With Youth


If your child is in the Detention Center, you can find information about phone calls, sending mail, and in-person visitation including hours and dress code at http://juvenile.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/Detention-Services.aspx


*ALL COMMUNICATIONS WITH YOUTH IN THE DETENTION CENTER ARE MONITORED AND RECORDED. Never discuss details of a case with anyone other than your attorney. Never discuss details about a case with a youth who is in the Detention Center or with anyone over the phone. Never include details about your case in a letter because incoming and outgoing mail may be monitored.


My Delinquency Case Is Over, Now What?


If a child is adjudicated delinquent after a trial, he or she has a right to appeal after the dispositional hearing. You should consult with your attorney about whether to appeal. You only have 30 days from the date of the juvenile court’s dispositional order to file an appeal.


If our Office represented you during the delinquency proceedings, we may or may not be able to handle the appeal. However, we can make sure the appeal gets filed and, if necessary, ask for new counsel to be appointed.


If you were represented by private appointed counsel and want to appeal, your appointed counsel should file the appeal on your behalf with a request for the appointment of appellate counsel. If your appointed counsel is not going to file the appeal, you can contact the Public Defender’s Office at (216) 698-3221 for assistance.

 

If a child is “sentenced” to an Ohio Department of Youth Services’ facility, the child may be able to request early release from the facility (“judicial release”).

To request the Public Defender’s Office assist you with a Judicial Release Motion, complete this form and email to cshepherd@cuyahogacounty.us or mail to:


The Office of the Cuyahoga County Public Defender

Juvenile Division

9300 Quincy Avenue, 5th Floor

Cleveland, Ohio 44106

 

You can request Juvenile Court records be sealed (made private) and/or expunged (deleted or destroyed) by completing this application and filing with the Juvenile Court. You can represent yourself in this proceeding.


If you want our Office to represent you in a motion to seal and/or expunge your records, please complete this on-line intake-form or call 216-443-7295.

 


CFS (“Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency”) Cases - What to Expect


Please keep in mind that because Children and Family Services (“CFS”) workers are not law enforcement officers, they are NOT required to give you Miranda warnings. Also, keep in mind that while CFS can provide helpful services to families, they are often called to testify in Court—what you say could be used to prove the case against you. Remember -what you tell a CFS worker is NOT confidential.


In CFS cases, parents will receive appointed counsel if they cannot afford to hire their own attorney. Each parent is entitled to their own, separate attorney. The Attorney represents the parent’s wishes and all communications between the parent and the Attorney are protected by confidentiality.


If your case is assigned to the Public Defender, you will be given a specific Attorney—you can call (216) 443-7295 to learn the name and contact information for the Public Defender assigned to your case. You must provide your best and current contact information to the Office.


Not all cases are assigned to the Public Defender. Private defense attorneys – referred to as “assigned counsel” – also get cases assigned to them by the Court. If you have assigned counsel, that person does not work for the Public Defender.

 

A CFS case can start in one of two ways:


Emergency Custody Hearing


When a child has been removed or when CFS files a “motion for pre-dispositional temporary custody,” asking for the child to be immediately removed from the parent or guardian, the Court will hold an Emergency Custody hearing the same or next business day, Monday through Friday. CFS will also file a complaint for “abuse, neglect, dependency.” Remember, these are just allegations.


Our Attorneys represent parents in emergency custody hearings. Our Social Workers connect parents to services and help parents advocate for themselves. Public Defender Social Workers do not work for CFS—they are part of your legal defense team.


At the Emergency Custody hearing, the court will advise the parent of their rights and the parent will enter a “denial” to the allegations in the complaint. The Court will decide whether to grant or deny the motion for emergency custody – immediate removal of the child – based on the parent(s) agreement or after a trial on the motion.


The case will be randomly assigned to a specific Judge who may assign a different attorney to represent the parent for the rest of the case, if the parent cannot afford to hire an attorney.


Arraignment


If CFS is not asking to remove your child, you will receive a complaint and notice of your date for preliminary hearing, or arraignment, by certified mail. At the hearing, the court will advise the parents of their rights and the parents will enter a “denial” to the allegations in the complaint.


After the first hearing, you will receive a date for a pre-trial hearing to take place with your assigned Judge—this is an individualized process, you and your attorney will work through together.

 

An Adjudication is the hearing where the Court hears evidence and makes a decision about the facts of the complaint.


In an abuse, neglect, dependency case, this is either 1) a trial where the State has to prove evidence of the allegations, or 2) a hearing where the parent “admits” to allegations.


Unless the case is dismissed, the next hearing is Disposition.


If a child is found to be abused, neglected, and/or dependent, the disposition hearing is where the Court orders a custody outcome for that child. Dispositional outcomes will depend on the case and family, and based on the request from CFS. Options include legal custody to a parent, placing the child with CFS for a temporary period of time, placing the child with a legal custodian or interested individual, or the permanent termination of parental rights.

 

If a Judge orders that your child be placed in the temporary or permanent custody of CFS, or orders your child to be placed in someone else’s legal custody, you have the right to appeal that decision. You should consult with your attorney about whether to appeal. You only have 30 days from the date of the juvenile court’s dispositional order to file an appeal.


If our Office represented you during the custody proceedings, we will not be able to handle the appeal. However, we can get the appeal filed and ask for new counsel to be appointed.


If you were represented by private appointed counsel and want to appeal, you should ask your attorney to file an appeal. If your private attorney will not file the appeal, you can contact the Public Defender’s Office at (216) 698-3221 for assistance.