child welfare, law, and lots of graphs

child welfare, law, and lots of graphs

Category: Etc.


Free Parking – Is the new Miami juvenile courthouse really more accessible?

Alan Mishael has been up to some provocateuring for justice with his Request for Information on Free or Reduced-Rate Parking For Volunteers and Poor People at the New Juvenile Courthouse, and the AOC’s soon-to-be-famous response of “let them valet.”

I am very excited about the new courthouse. I have never missed an opportunity to point out that the current Juvenile Courthouse stands as a dilapidated architectural witness to the benign neglect of the families and children that pass through the dependency system. I applaud everyone who has worked hard to get this accomplished, because many thought they would never live to see it.

But, I think the parking question is a valid one: for all its warts, the current JCC at least has some kind of parking law immunity that allows people to leave their cars on any reasonably flat surface and have nobody say anything about it. (Just don’t park in the circle in the front because blocking access to the churro cart will get you towed faster than whatever period of time the clerk’s office is answering the phones these days.) It’s not just court personnel who go there daily: volunteer GALs, case managers, police officers, pro bono attorneys, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and parents. This will add a $6 surcharge for each court trip, sometimes just to have their hearing reset.


Much was made in the AOC response letter about the fact that the new courthouse is right on the Metrorail line. (Also: they recommend you use jitneys? lol.) I wondered how much time that would actually save parents and relatives coming from all over our unnaturally (or naturally, which is the problem) shaped county. The answer: some, but not much. Using Google Maps as a reasonable estimate, I calculated the travel schedule required to get someone to a 9:00am hearing at the New Courthouse versus the Old Courthouse. As you can see below, the biggest winners are those in Kendall, Homestead, and North Beach, who save 26-28 minutes. The biggest losers (or non-winners) are those in Carol City and Liberty City. Hialeans kind of break even. Thirty minutes is no small amount, but it won’t prevent someone from losing their job(s) when they still have almost two hours of travel time each way. Case managers from His House Children’s Home in North Miami would spend two hours in transit each way (sometimes having to take a bus, the Tri-rail, and then the Metrorail), versus 25 minutes driving.

To New Courthouse To Old Courthouse
From Leave by* Connections Transit Time Leave by* Connections Transit Time Time saved
Carol City 07:43 3 01:12 07:34 3 01:07 -0:05
North Beach 07:52 2 01:03 07:24 2 01:29 00:26
Hialeah 08:05 2 00:48 08:05 2 00:53 00:05
Miami Beach 08:15 1 00:38 07:54 2 00:53 00:15
Liberty City 08:15 2 00:34 08:25 2 00:29 -0:05
Kendall 07:57 2 00:49 07:32 3 01:17 00:28
Homestead 07:13 2 01:44 06:38 3 02:11 00:27

* Time you would have to leave in order to arrive at the courthouse by 9:00am. 

Students of South Florida geography will immediately note that the New Courthouse seems to have become more accessible to people based on their race and social class. That says more about public transportation in Miami than any prejudice by the courthouse planners. Maybe this will be an opportunity for MDT to recalculate some routes to make the courthouse more accessible.

Still, having a courthouse nearly two hours away from a community it serves seems indefensible. It has been floated for years and I float it again here: dependency court should have satellite hearings. Once the files are electronic (hahaha), there is no good reason not to hold court in Homestead and North Miami once a week and conduct motions hearings and other non-witness hearings by teleconference. This will require a lot of planning, yes, but we will have plenty of time to do that while we’re sitting in our jitney at 7:13 in the morning.

Conclusion: The New Courthouse is good. The lack of low-cost or free parking is bad. Miami public transit is rotten. We can always do better and should try.

Case Law UpdatesEtc.

Fixing shelter representation

One of my three readers wrote separately to note that the 72-hour hearing is not the only possible solution to the shelter representation requirement. The reader reports that Broward defense attorneys take turns doing shelter duty. All shelters are handled by one judge for the week, and attorneys rotate being present for them. That’s an idea that requires only administrative changes at the local level.

Another possible solution would be to alert the next attorneys on the wheel about shelters so that they can be there. This is less fair because shelters are by definition add-ons, and you can’t always clear your schedule so easily. Also, you never know which parents will and won’t show up at a shelter, so you won’t know how many wheel attorneys to invite. Attorneys would have to forego other work just to be present for a possible non-appointment.

A third solution, of course, is to stop giving parents attorneys altogether–you could call it the Super Limited Registry. Or the Undefined Registry, in that when you take x number of parents and divide them among zero attorneys the results are mathematically undefined (and morally indefensible).


Dependency and TPR Appellate Briefs Should be Public

The case below reinforces my strongly held belief that the appellate briefs (not the full record, however) in dependency and TPR cases should be public. The briefs are already redacted and the opinions publish much of the same information found in the briefs. There’s no reason to keep them hidden. It only serves to prevent public comment and amicus on cases until after they are decided and its too late. Given the important public interests at stake, public participation could only be a good thing.


When every leaf is a flower

Autumn started on the 23rd. It was a lazy end of summer, little going on, not even any substantive or ridiculous appellate opinions (except for the one about spanking as domestic violence, which I haven’t gotten to yet). It’s as if the dependency system has stabilized a bit, a finally–if temporarily–well-oiled machine.

I know that’s not true. RTI kids are still getting cut. Medications are still being illegally provided. Reunifications and removals are being improvidently granted based on considerations unknowable by any party and not articulable by any judge. Kids are bouncing placements and aging out with nowhere to go, siblings are being split, fathers are denying paternity (some are having it thrust upon them), mothers are relapsing, crying, promising.  Grandmothers are appealing hopelessly, forbidden boyfriends are waiting in parking lots, therapists are quitting, foster parents are grappling with their feelings, guardians ad litem are concerned (but that’s it), defense attorneys are objecting (but that’s it), and on and on and on.

Silence where there should be bedlam is disturbing. So to the quiet summer, I say a goodbye. May this Autumn bring a lot of noise.



In the Academy

We had to say one thing we were proud of and the others had to practice being supportive and congratulatory. The turn came to me. I said, “This is hard, I’ve been raised not to brag about myself.”

He, on tenure track, laughed: “Haha, you’ll never make it in the academy.”

I laughed back, “That’s a relief, because I never intended to.”


First Class

Considering how many crayons there are in a box, I was doing a lot of losing.

The students start a week from yesterday, and we’re busily getting ready, sweeping out the dust bunnies and making sure we have sufficient construction paper and scissors.

When I was in kindergarten I remember very clearly losing all of my crayons except the red one. I borrowed one kid’s yellow and another kid’s blue to color a tree. Turns out that yellow+blue doesn’t work that well with crayons, and my teacher discovered the problem fairly quickly.

I hope I’m half as good as Mrs. Collins was at figuring out what my students need. Happy Thursday