WLSO Summer Scholars: Danielle Wise

This summer, I interned for a juvenile court judge, Judge Louis A. Trosch Jr., at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte, NC. My internship was unique because I did not spend the majority of my time researching statutory and case law and writing memos, duties assigned to most judicial interns. Instead, Judge Trosch asked that I work closely with specific and specialized court-led initiatives aimed at helping juveniles who are already in the court system as well as juveniles who are at risk of becoming involved.

One initiative with which I participated was a grant writing workgroup born from a county human trafficking committee. This workgroup was tasked with writing a grant proposal eligible to award the county $200,000 to aid in anti-human trafficking measures. To apply for the grant, we collaborated with more than 30 anti-human trafficking agencies around the city. In addition, we sought the commitment of community law enforcement and Department of Social Services to support these measures. Mecklenburg County was selected as a “pilot site” for the grant, and, although the workgroup has a lot of work ahead, I was proud that I helped secure funds for the county to continue and expand efforts to help at-risk youth and trafficking victims.

The majority of my summer work aligned with Race Matters for Juvenile Justice (RMJJ), a coalition initiated in 2010 with the seemingly modest goal to address the overrepresentation of children of color in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg judicial system. RMJJ now has six subcommittees and four workgroups, each working toward the common goal of reducing this overrepresentation. The group is charged with addressing the underlying fissures that lead to this disproportionality and to work to implement strategies that can alter a typical trajectory and outcome for these children. With this group, I helped research disparity and disproportionality in the juvenile justice system for Dr. Susan McCarter, who is currently writing a text book chapter.

I was pleasantly surprised to witness the investment, sincerity and dedication the juvenile court judges had to create and sustain committees to address the needs of the juveniles they see in the courts. There were many weeks when Judge Trosch participated in lunch meetings daily, addressing and participating with each of these committees, dedicated to bettering the lives of juveniles. My work this summer has inspired me to stay involved with juveniles, even if that is not the area of practice I ultimately pursue. Even more inspirational than the judges’ tireless work was the sheer volume of community participation. Between Youth and Family Services, Guardian ad Litem, Council for Children’s Rights, Juvenile Court Officials, law firms, anti-human trafficking organizations, and child advocacy centers, it was an honor to see everyone come together to better the lives of youth.

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