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Dilemma of Duties

Dilemma of Duties

The Conflicted Role of Juvenile Defenders

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Anne M. Corbin


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
2 illustrations

Perspectives on Crime and Justice


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About the Book

The role of a juvenile defender is riddled with conflict, and clients are uniquely challenging because of their lack of life experience and their underdeveloped decision-making abilities. In Dilemma of Duties, Anne M. Corbin examines the distinct function of defense counsel in juvenile courts, demonstrating the commonplace presence of role conflict and confusion, even among defenders in jurisdictions that clearly define their role. This study focuses on juvenile defense attorneys in North Carolina, where it is mandated that counselors advocate for their client’s wishes, even if they do not agree it is in the client’s best interest.  
In Dilemma of Duties, Corbin outlines patterns of role conflict that defenders experience, details its impact on counselors and clients in the juvenile justice system, and addresses the powerful influence of the juvenile court culture and the lack of resources for defenders. Tasked with guiding these children, counselors frequently must contend with and manage their clients’ general distrust of adults as they attempt to serve as their voices to the court.
Understanding how juvenile defenders define their role and experience role conflict provides valuable insights into our juvenile justice system, especially its role in upholding due process rights. Such knowledge points to the importance of the training and practices of juvenile court functionaries and the efficacy, credibility, and legitimacy of the juvenile justice system itself.


Anne M. Corbin is a law-trained social scientist whose research centers on the professional development of lawyers. She has consulted periodically for the Police Foundation and taught at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Thomas College in Maine, Elon University, and Michigan State University. She currently serves the state of Vermont’s professional development needs and resides there with her family.


"Dilemma of Duties does an excellent job at articulating the realities of what makes defending youth such a demanding job, and why it can be such a head-spinner of a profession. Defenders struggling with their own place in the system will likely see themselves in these pages, but the book is an important read for any juvenile justice system stakeholder who has ever felt that attorneys in juvenile court should somehow act more like 'one of the team.' Understanding each stakeholder’s individual role in an effective juvenile justice system is critical, and Corbin sheds light on the often overlooked complexity of what it means to defend children."—Tim Curry, Legal Director at the National Juvenile Defender Center, in  Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books 

Dilemma of Duties is a unique, groundbreaking study. Dr. Corbin’s methodology and findings provide valuable insight into the training and support of juvenile defense counsel.”—Eric J. Zogry, juvenile defender