Clinical Professor Christopher Northrop was recently awarded the prestigious Robert E. Shepherd Jr. Leadership Award for Excellence in Juvenile Defense. The award is presented annually for outstanding advocacy and dedication in the field of juvenile defense. He received the award on October 27, 2018 at the National Juvenile Defender Center’s Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota.
For many years, Professor Northrop has dedicated his work to ensuring and increasing fairness in the juvenile justice system. In 2006, he left private practice to join the Maine Law faculty and launch the Juvenile Justice Clinic at the Cumberland Legal Aid 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 established “Tuesdays at the Teen Center,” a weekly meeting with homeless teens at the Preble Street Teen Center, where clinic students provide free legal advice and resource referrals.
Professor Northrop also provides his students with a chance to see how attorneys can play a critical role in systemic reform. He 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. In 2017, Professor Northrop worked with Jill Ward to create the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law (MCJPAL). MCJPAL was established to support the policy work of students and faculty in the Juvenile Justice Clinic. The MCJPAL collaborates with partners and stakeholders to reduce harm to and increase positive outcomes for current and former system involved Maine youth.
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.
“I was thrilled to hear that Chris received this well-deserved national recognition, particularly from an organization that knows well the broad impact of his work, dedication, and accomplishments,” said Professor Deirdre M. Smith, Director of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic. “Working with Chris for many years, I’ve had to good fortune to see firsthand how Chris’s extraordinary work has shaped the careers of scores of attorneys as well the field of juvenile justice.”