Clinical Professor Christopher Northrop was recently awarded the “Unsung Hero Award” during the annual meeting of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. This award is presented annually to one criminal defense attorney who best exemplifies the highest level of commitment, passion, and the tireless pursuit of justice in the representation of indigent defendants.
In 2006, Professor Northrop left private practice to join the Maine Law faculty and to launch the Juvenile Justice Clinic. He teaches his students best practices for representing juveniles using a model of holistic representation to ensure that the clients’ broader educational, safety, and medical needs are addressed as well as their legal needs. He also provides his students with a chance to see how attorneys can play a critical role in systemic reform. Professor Northrop and his students have worked on a range of juvenile policy issues including: juvenile competency standards; the indiscriminate shackling of kids in juvenile court; the overuse of detention and commitment; Disproportionate Minority Contact; sealing of juvenile records; and other issues that have had an impact across the state.
Outside of Maine, Professor Northrop has worked with the National Juvenile Defender Center and the New England Juvenile Defender Center of which he is a co-founder. Among many things, he has contributed to the development of juvenile defender training curricula (including on the topic of implicit racial bias), which are in use around the country to improve the quality of juvenile defense.
Professor Deirdre Smith, Director of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, presented the award to Professor Northrop at the annual meeting. During the award presentation, she had this to say: “Chris has dedicated his career, not only to helping the most vulnerable people in our juvenile and criminal systems through direct representation but also to applying his talents in ways that will have a far broader impact, whether through advocacy for policy and legislative reform or by training the next generation of juvenile and criminal defense attorneys on how to practice at the highest level.”