HCBA Lawyer Magazine Vol. 29, No. 1 - Page 28

A VoiCe for CHildren in need: Volunteer for A guArdiAn Ad liteM AppeAl Appellate practice section Chairs: Tom Seider – Brannock & Humphries and Joe Eagleton – Brannock & Humphries As lawyers, we should all aspire to help the neediest among us. This is not just a moral imperative, but also a professional one: the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct recommend that every lawyer donate at least 20 hours of time to pro-bono causes. See R. Regulating Fla. Bar 4-6.1. This article offers a worthy cause for those hours: representing the abandoned and neglected children of our state’s dependency system. There is a tremendous need: over 32,000 children are currently under the jurisdiction of Florida’s dependency courts. See Statewide Guardian ad Litem Annual Report (2018), https://perma.cc/AA3V-N3FZ. Florida’s Guardian ad Litem attorneys appear in court to serve the best interests of these children. This is crucial, life-changing work, providing a voice to children who would otherwise be unable to advocate on their own behalf. But the Guardian ad Litem program can only do so much. There are still thousands of children who will go through dependency proceedings without a lawyer. See Fla. Children’s First and U. of Florida Levin of College of L. Ctr. on Children and Fam., Legal Representation of Children, a 2012 Report on Florida’s Patchwork System (Feb. 2012), https://perma.cc/4VRR-E8NF. in the 2017-18 Bar year, lawyers from the florida Bar’s Appellate practice section donated over 1,300 hours to the project, resulting in 23 adoptions, four permanent guardianships, and 15 children reunified with their parents. Now, there is an opportunity for appellate lawyers to help. Thomasina Moore, the Guardian ad Litem program’s director of appeals, has created the “Defending Best Interests Project” — a pro bono initiative that connects volunteers with children who are defending favorable dependencycourt rulings on appeal. Aware of the strain that a pro bono appeal can put on an attorney, Moore has done everything she can to streamline the volunteering process. It really is very straightforward. To sign up, send an email expressing your interest to Joe Eagleton (JEagleton@bhappeals.com), who chairs our HCBA Appellate Practice Section’s Pro Bono Committee. Once signed up, you will start receiving email blasts — just a few a month — that identify specific Guardian ad Litem appeals in need of briefing. You will also receive all the relevant information about the case: the size of the record and the trial transcript, the length of the initial brief, and the issues raised on appeal. Appeals are assigned on a firstcome, first-serve basis, so there is never any pressure to take a case when you do not have the capacity. When you do accept a case, the Guardian ad Litem program makes your life easier by providing administrative support, which includes transmitting the electronic record, sharing templates and examples from the program’s brief bank, and filing the answer brief. The “Defending Best Interests Project” — dreamed up just a year ago — is already a resounding success. In the 2017-18 Bar year, lawyers from The Florida Bar’s Appellate Practice Section donated over 1,300 hours to the project, resulting in 23 adoptions, four permanent guardianships, and 15 children reunified with their parents. More than that, the Guardian ad Litem program was able to take an additional 475 children as clients thanks to a lightened appellate workload. But this is just the beginning. There is so much more that can be done, and thousands of children are still in need. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today. Author: Tom Seider – Brannock & Humphries 2 6 S E P T - O C T 2 0 1 8 | H C B A L A W Y E R A VoiCe for CHildren in need: Volunteer for A guArdiAn Ad liteM AppeAl Appellate practice section Chairs: Tom Seider – Brannock & Humphries and Joe Eagleton – Brannock & Humphries A s lawyers, we should all aspire to help the neediest among us. This is not just a moral imperative, but also a professional one: the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct recommend that every lawyer donate at least 20 hours of time to pro-bono causes. See R. Regulating Fla. Bar 4-6.1. This article offers a worthy cause for those hours: representing the abandoned and neglected children of our state’s dependency system. There is a tremendous need: over 32,000 children are currently under the jurisdiction of Florida’s dependency courts. See Statewide Guardian ad Litem Annual Report (2018), https://perma.cc/AA3V-N3FZ. Florida’s Guardian ad Litem attorneys appear in court to serve the best interests of these children. This is crucial, life-changing work, providing a voice to children who would otherwise be unable to advocate on their own behalf. But the Guardian ad Litem program can only do so much. There are still thousands of children who will go through dependency proceedings without a lawyer. See Fla. Children’s First and U. of Florida Levin of College of L. Ctr. on Children and Fam., Legal Representation of Children, a 2012 Report on Florida’s Patchwork System (Feb. 2012), https://perma.cc/4VRR-E8NF. 26 in the 2017-18 Bar year, lawyers from the florida Bar’s Appellate practice section donated over 1,300 hours to the project, resulting in 23 adoptions, four permanent guardianships, and 15 children reunified with their parents. Now, there is an opportunity for appellate lawyers to help. Thomasina Moore, the Guardian ad Litem program’s director of appeals, has created the “Defending Best Interests Project” — a pro bono initiative that connects volunteers with children who are defending favorable dependency- court rulings on appeal. Aware of the strain that a pro bono appeal can put on an attorney, Moore has done everything she can to streamline the volunteering process. It really is very straightforward. To sign up, send an email expressing your interest to Joe Eagleton (JEagleton@bhappeals.com), who chairs our HCBA Appellate Practice Section’s Pro Bono Committee. 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