I’ll be attending, tweeting (@robertlathamesq), and possibly live blogging (if there is somewhere to set up) the Legal Representation of Children Symposium at Nova Southeastern University today. Hope to see you there.
News has traveled at this point that FSU Professor Paolo Annino has filed a petition in the First DCA placing the issue of a child’s right to counsel squarely before the court. In his case, the child is fighting a TPR petition that is brought by DCF and supported by the GAL. The child moved for either DCF or the JAC to pay for a bonding assessment, because the 8-year-old child was (obviously) indigent. The trial court’s ruling:
This Court finds that the minor child does not have a constitutional right to appointed counsel in a termination of parental rights trial and agrees with the legal position taken by both DCF and the JAC. Accordingly, the minor child is not entitled to have the JAC pay for litigation expenses such as expert evaluations, etc. for the purposes of preparing for trial. This Court further finds that DCF is not required to pay for expenses that are not for the purposes of provided recommended services for the minor child, but are litigation expenses requested on behalf of the minor child.
Trial Court Order, In re S.S., (October 4, 2011).
Professor Annino’s cert petition challenges the denial of funding on three grounds: Due Process (if the child has a due process right to counsel, then JAC has to pay), Access to courts (failing to fund counsel denies access), and Right to privacy (a new Florida right to analyze right to counsel under since the last time such a case was decided). It will be interesting to see if the final analysis of the case hinges on the rights of the child as hoped or instead slips into separation of powers or something completely unexpected.
The 2011 Supreme Court Session kicked off yesterday. Family law is not much dealt with at the federal level, and this session is no exception. However, here are a few cases (and their OA dates) that may have some impact on families, and children and youth in and out of foster care:
10/3/11 – REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 October 2011 (sex offender registration laws under SORNA).
10/3/11 – DOUGLAS v. INDEPENDENT LIVING CENTER OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 October 2011 (Does federal law preempt state reductions to Medicaid benefits?).
11/1/11 – MINNECI v. POLLARD. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 October 2011 (“Can employees of private prison operators be sued for violating the constitutional rights of inmates?”).
11/30/11 – FAA v. COOPER. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 October 2011 (mental and emotional damages for misuse of information under the Privacy Act).
12/6/11 – WILLIAMS v. ILLINOIS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 October 2011 (“Can an expert witness be called as a stand-in for a lab analyst who actually did a test on criminal evidence, but did not appear at the trial?”).
no date set – HOLDER v. GUTIERREZ. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 October 2011 (imputing parent’s legal residence status to children).
no date set – COLEMAN v. MARYLAND COURT OF APPEALS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 October 2011 (“Did Congress constitutionally abrogate states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity when it passed the self-care leave provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act?”).
My favorite letter to the editor today. From jacksonville.com:
Leave kids alone
I’m probably going to be the sole dissenter concerning the article Monday about teen fashion of wearing pants low.
I am an adult with a college degree, and I feel that other adults are making far too big of a deal of this.
Yes, it looks ridiculous, but show me a single person who is harmed by it.
Every generation is going to have some fashion that is going to irritate their parents; from jazz music to long hair on guys in the 1960s and ’70s.
Yes, we need to set boundaries, but they need to be credible and meaningful ones, such as making kids do their school work, not letting them go out after curfew or making sure they are staying in school.
And crooks who do billions of dollars in damages often wear suits.
If you really want to see the fad die, stop making a big deal about it. It peaked 10 years ago anyway. All the hipsters are wearing skinny jeans.
I say let the kids express themselves.
Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/opinion/letters-readers/2011-09-15/story/letters-readers-how-about-politicos#ixzz1Y7Cn5CKv
The Tampa Bay Online is reporting and my inbox was blowing up all night: the ACLU has filed suit against DCF Secretary Wilkins (in his official capacity of course) over the mandatory drug testing of TANF recipients.
The lawsuit was inevitable, but the big question on everybody’s lips today is: will they serve Wilkins at the Dependency Summit? Get your camera phones ready.
The numbers don’t match up and there’s no explanation of why. For example, there were 19 sex abuse cases, but only 17 perpetrators. I’d also like to see the cases they lost/settled under $15,000. If there are 200 of those, then that’s significant. I’d also like an explanation as to why risk outlays plummeted 66% in 2010. I don’t supposed it’s because DCF suddenly did 150% better than ever.
I wrote the organizers of the Florida Dependency Summit about whether there would be a promoted hashtag for the event. I’m still hoping for a response. Until then, I propose #FLDS11 as the tag. Tell your friends and followers!
From: Latham, Robert
Sent: Sat 8/27/2011 5:13 PM
Subject: summit on twitter?
I was wondering if the Summit planned on promoting a twitter hashtag so that participants can use it during the event?
- The Missouri law banning teachers from communicating with students and ex-students via the internet is temporary blocked. Via, Volkh.
- France is struggling with a child’s right to know his or her parents. See, Les Enfants X: denied their true identity.
- Court rules Illinois can stop contracting with Catholic organizations that will not adopt to gay couples. Via, First Amendment Law Prof.
Right from the press release: International Commission Finds United States Denied Justice to Domestic Violence Survivor. Also check the ACLU page on the case.
Congratulations to my colleague Carrie Bettinger-Lopez and all the students who worked on this case over many, many years. Phenomenal effort by many, on a huge scale.
The background is this: NACC is looking to set up certification programs for counsel working with children across the country. This includes GALs, AALs, government attorneys, and even parents’ attorneys. The plus sides are obvious: baseline education and training requirements, elevation of the profession to something worthy of requiring special expertise (which it is), and creating cross-organizational relationships of attorneys working in child advocacy.
Just about everyone who has thought or voted on the subject has agreed that it’s a good thing for the attorneys and children of Florida. With one glaring exception: the Florida Association of Counsel for Children (FACC) has taken a strong position against the certification. Why? To roughly quote one of its members: because the GAL Program will get its attorneys certified and then people will think they’re legitimate and we’ll never get rid of them.
The GAL Program’s response was appropriate and measured. Since this is a blog, my critique does not have to be. FACC’s position is short-sighted, ideologically inane, and harmful to their own goal of institutionalizing a representation model in which children are represented directly by competent counsel. Adopting their slant (which I don’t fully agree with), if you want the GAL Program gone, you’re going to have to offer a viable, scalable alternative. Currently, there is none. Good attorneys at DCF and the GAL Program leave on a daily basis to seek careers in other fields of law. That is the enemy. Starving the GAL Program of expertise only furthers the brain drain. By creating a real thing called a counsel for children, you give those attorneys a sense of identity and a level of competence to aim for. With that you hopefully increase the likelihood of them making a career of child advocacy instead of using it as just a band-aid job until something better comes along.
NACC has my vote.