Opposition to expanding the mandate is led by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte who points out only one neighboring state requires youth to be represented by an attorney in juvenile court.
“Are we the most liberal, nanny-state of any around us? Is that who we are?” Groene asks colleagues during legislative floor debate. “Rural areas are not asking for this.”
Legislative Bill 158 would expand a mandate already in place in Omaha and Lincoln, that a youth entering juvenile court will be assigned a lawyer.
Groene spares little in his criticism of the measure and is unimpressed by the claim of supporters that youth need legal representation.
“This is absolutely terrible, feel-good, let’s all sit around at a wine and cheese party and solve the problems of our youth,” Groene says.
Groene has so far delayed a vote on the measure, mounting a filibuster against it. Debate has spanned parts of a couple of days at the Capitol. A motion filed by Groene is pending.
The sponsor of LB 158, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, says she has the votes needed to overcome the filibuster and go to a vote on her measure. The bill has yet to be scheduled for further debate.
Pansing Brooks mocks the arguments against her measure.
“I’m hearing, ‘Oh, well this just isn’t necessary. A constitutional right; we don’t need to protect it with these kids. Buck up. Pay for your crime. Too bad if you don’t have the counsel and the ability to speak intelligently and advocate for yourself appropriately,’” Pansing Brooks says.
Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln suggests legislators aren’t taking the issue seriously enough.
“Juvenile court is not kiddie court,” Wishart says. “Though it’s meant to be rehabilitative in nature, the possible consequences can be serious and can apply on any charge, no matter how big or small.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]