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Robert Listenbee Honored as Champion for Change in Juvenile Justice Reform

Dedication to Improving Juvenile Defense to be Recognized at National Meeting of MacArthur-Supported Juvenile Justice Reform Initiative

Philadelphia  – Robert Listenbee,  Chief of the Juvenile Unit at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, is being honored by the MacArthur Foundation-supported Models for Change initiative as a Champion for Change in juvenile justice reform.

Listenbee, a Philadelphia resident, will receive the award today at the annual Models for Change national conference in Washington, D.C., where he is being recognized for his efforts to improve the quality of defender representation in Pennsylvania. 

Models for Change is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s 16-state juvenile justice system reform initiative. Now in its 6th year, Models for Change is accelerating movement toward a more effective, fair and developmentally sound juvenile justice system by creating successful and replicable models that improve outcomes for youth, use resources wisely, and protect community safety.

“Throughout all of his work as part of the Models for Change team, Bob has brought tremendous energy, enthusiasm, humor and a willingness to collaborate,” said Robert Schwartz, Executive Director, Juvenile Law Center. “These aspects of his leadership style are a major reason that he has been able to secure cooperation from so many different stakeholders. His commitments to youth, personal integrity and seemingly limitless energy have been invaluable in inspiring others to contribute to our reform initiatives.”

Listenbee is Chief of the Juvenile Unit at the Defender Association of Philadelphia and has been a major contributor to Models for Change initiatives in Pennsylvania, participating in both the Juvenile Indigent Defense and Disproportionate Minority Contact Networks. In addition to his work with Defenders in his unit, Listenbee is dedicated to improving the system and works closely with non-traditional partners to accomplish these goals including the Deputy District Attorney for Family Court in Philadelphia and top police officials in five branches of Philadelphia law enforcement.

“As Chief of the Juvenile Unit, Bob has never wavered from his commitment to improving the quality of defender representation in Philadelphia,” said Rhonda McKitten, Defender Association of Philadelphia. “He has incorporated team leaders and mentoring into attorney assignments, created a specialized unit to deal with juvenile sexual assault cases and been instrumental in developing three specialty court programs that divert youth out of the juvenile justice system and reduce their risk of residential placement.”        

Listenbee worked with juvenile defenders across Pennsylvania to create the Juvenile Defender Association of Pennsylvania, the first organization in the Commonwealth to create a community of juvenile defenders to focus on the interests of juvenile practitioners. He was also the only juvenile defense attorney selected to be part of the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, to respond to the Luzerne County scandal by recommending changes to ensure that a similar injustice did not occur again.  Listenbee advocates for the rights of juveniles and improvements to juvenile indigent defense as a member of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee and as a new member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice.

Reform areas: Juvenile indigent defense

States: Pennsylvania

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.