Executive Officer’s Perspective: TCDLA Welcomes the 2021 JTIP Class


“Under our Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court.” – In re: Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 28 (1967).

Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP), TCDLA and the Texas Indigent Defense Commission have teamed up to bring the “gold standard” of juvenile defense training to Texas. Special kudos to Geoff Burkhardt, TIDC Executive director for this idea. The Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) isn’t your usual CLE. Instead, it’s a hands-on, immersive, 42-lesson training program that emphasizes the specialized role of juvenile defense counsel and the unique knowledge needed to provide meaningful representation to our youngest defendants. JTIP trainings aren’t a lecture—instead, JTIP trainings use small groups with intensive on-your-feet exercises in a mix of hands-on case scenarios, skill-building drills, facilitated discussions, and more. These innovative elements strengthen your trial skills and deepen your knowledge of juvenile defense.

JTIP is a creation of the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC). NJDC in a non-profit organization created in the 1990s to improve the quality of juvenile defense. NJDC provides training across the country on juvenile defense and works to raise the profile of the specialization through training, technical assistance, publications, and amicus briefs. You can learn more about NJDC, download their policy briefs and other resources at http://njdc.info.

TIDC and TCDLA recognized the need for training in this important area, and in 2019 applied for funding through the State of Texas’ Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant. This fund, provided by the U.S. Department of Justice and administered by the State of Texas, is usually awarded to law enforcement agencies. The Texas JTIP Project is the first time that these funds will be used to provide training to defense counsel.

We have selected the 18 attorneys below to be part of an elite corps of Certified JTIP trainers across the nation. They are scheduled for a training February 16-18, 2021, in Austin. They will then create the training and materials specific to Texas Laws. TIDC and TCDLA will bring six free regional juvenile trainings in the spring and fall of 2021. The seminars will cover the critical importance of specialized defense counsel in juvenile courts.

Welcome to our Texas Trainers!

Donna Broom, Tyler
Kristin Brown, Dallas
Sara Casner, Austin
Ruben Castaneda, Austin
Scott Constantine, Austin
William Cox, El Paso
Dolores Esparza, Dallas
Rebecca Garcia, Dallas
Todd Greenwood, Wichita Falls
Steven Halpert, Houston
Steve Keathley, Corsicana
Michelle Latray, Groesbeck
Melanie Lister, Austin
Michael Parson, Edinburg
Laura Peterson, Dallas
Scott Ruplinger, Austin
Stephanie Stevens, San Antonio
Nydia Thomas, Austin

Co-authored with Kathleen Casey-Gamez

Melissa J. Schank
Melissa J. Schank
Melissa J. Schank, Chief Executive Officer, has worked with nonprofit associations for over 20 years, and has been with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association more than 15 years. She earned her master’s of human resources, business administration, bachelor’s of communication and mediation certificate from Saint Edwards University in Austin, Texas, and is a certified association executive. Her greatest strengths are overseeing the long-term planning, financial management, and strategy for legal educational programs, in addition to managing the organization’s seminars, membership, publication, and communication departments.
Previous Story

Editor’s Comment: Here for Each Other

Next Story

President’s Message: Time for Bail Reform, But Only If It’s Done Right

Latest from Columns