Law students help end fees in Nevada for youth in delinquency system

Berkeley Law students Savannah Reid and Dagen Downard, along with a representative from the Children's Advocacy Alliance in Nevada

Berkeley Law students Savannah Reid (left) and Dagen Downard (center) stand outside of the Nevada State Legislature building with Jared Busker, associate director of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance. The alliance advocates for the well-being of Nevada's children. (Photo courtesy of Berkeley Law)

Heavy lifting done by two Berkeley Law students from Nevada — Savannah Reid and Dagen Downard — has led to a new law that, starting today (Monday, July 1), prevents families in Nevada from being billed thousands of dollars in fees when their children under age 18 wind up in the state’s juvenile delinquency system.

Until now, parents and guardians in Nevada were charged hourly rates for a public defender, as much as $30 a day for their children’s food, clothing and medical care and up to $200 a month for supervision when they’re on probation.

In June, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 439 after it was unanimously passed by both houses of the Nevada Legislature. Nevada is the second state nationwide, after California, to repeal these fees.

“It’s very rare for students in law school to be so instrumental in making a new law that impacts so many people. They identified the problem, consulted widely with key people in Nevada, and wrote that bill from start to finish,” said attorney Stephanie Campos-Bui in a Berkeley Law story by Sarah Weld. Campos-Bui, a Berkeley Law alumna, is a supervising attorney for the law school’s Policy Advocacy Clinic.

In the clinic, Reid, Downard and other students pursue non-litigation strategies to address systemic racial, economic and social injustice. The clinic’s extensive research in states and counties nationwide has found that these juvenile delinquency system fees disproportionately harm poor families and families of color, and that collecting them is not cost-effective.

Interdisciplinary teams of law and public policy students learn valuable skills at the clinic that include public speaking, legal writing and research, drafting legislation, quickly adapting to changing situations and learning how to talk to people with different views.

Reid, who is from Las Vegas, says her experience working on the bill was invaluable, adding that “being able to testify in front of the legislature as a law student will forever be one of the highlights of my law school career.”

Read the full Berkeley Law story.