our heroes: LEGAL EAGLES Deborah Cascino — Former Teacher Finds an Even Better Way of Helping Children She believes that the most important thing to give a client is dignity. D 24 eborah Cascino’s career path has been a long and winding road. She didn’t start out as a lawyer. The University of Texas graduate received her degree in Communications and started her career in Austin working at the capi- tal, eventually becoming a teacher. “I’ve done some really cool stuff,” she said. “I worked for the State; I worked for the governor back in the 1980s. I did speech writing in 1983. I worked for the speaker pro-tem under Gov. Mark White. I was a reporter and did PR and wrote newsletters. I moved around and got my teaching degree and worked in Beaumont. I taught English, speech and debate for seventh grade through 12th grade. I loved it, but it was a really hard and a demanding job.” Even though she loved teaching since 11th grade, she wanted to be a lawyer. Almost 20 years after gradu- ating from UT, Cascino graduated from Texas Wesleyan University Law School in 2003. “It took me 20 years to come back and go back to law school with my little baby [Joey],” Cascino said. “I did night school so I would have him during the day. I would cry all the way to school because I missed my baby, and cried home because I had to go study.” After graduation she bought a historic house that is now her office, had her daughter, Emily, and has been working nonstop. She’s prac- ticed law in Weatherford for 13 years. Dedicated to practicing family law, Cascino’s cases are mostly about divorce, custody and guardianships, and wills and probate. She says that her favorite cases are adoptions. “The cases I love the most are the adoptions. We don’t get to do those very often,” she said. “They are at the top of the list for me. Some of the CPS cases, while very hard, can be extremely rewarding because you are making a difference in a child’s life.” She also feels that her victories come when she can help her client navigate through the worst circum- stances. She recalled a case where Child Protective Services had taken some older children away from a mother who’d just had a baby, and CPS also wanted to take the baby. “I was like, ‘no, this is not happen- ing,’” Cascino said. “We fought them off, and it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, but at least she was able to keep the baby for almost a year. She just couldn’t hold it together. For me, that was a victory.” Cascino believes that no matter who her client is or what they have done, it is important to treat them with dignity. For her, it is that little kindness in a trying situation that can help make a difference with her client. “I treat my clients with dignity,” Cascino said. “even if they’re a meth head. They deserve to be treated with dignity, even though they may not deserve to have custody of their chil- dren, they still deserve to have skilled representation of the law in the court- room. That’s what I’m here to do. Even though I don’t think they should have custody of their kids, that’s not my judgment. My judgment is to help them and give them my advice. I’ve had several generations come back to tell me how helpful my advice was to them.” Cascino has been involved with some high-profile custody cases, including one of the largest custody cases in the nation’s history, with the custody of more than 400 children in question. In 2008 the federal govern- ment raided the compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, a group led by Warren Jeffs. The raid involved more than 400 children, that were taken into state custody from the sect. When another fellow Weatherford Lawyer Tom Vick called (see this month’s cover story), Cascino knew that she h ad to get involved and help the children, and that’s exactly what she and other lawyers from around the state did. “We dropped everything and went down there,” she said. “When we got into the whole case, we started understanding how multi-layered [it was], and [what] a complete cultural surprise to have this in Texas. I had five kids as my clients, and one was a girl, and she told me that she had a mangled hand and I asked what happened. She got hurt on the conveyor belt working in the field. She was about 10 or 11. That’s when I knew I was in the right place.” One of the kids that Cascino represented was a boy who was 6 or 7 who had to pick up rocks and dig up cacti all day. She recalled how he laughed at her when he saw she was in a pants suit, asking her why she was in a man’s suit. She went into the city’s small downtown area and bought a longish, full, flowing dress so her clients would feel more comfortable talking to her. Dignity and great representation are the things that matter the most to Cascino. She cares about her clients, shows them the utmost respect, and works diligently on their behalf to ensure that their individual cases have the best possible outcomes. She finds the work rewarding. What more can anyone ask from a career?