Sunday

Court's Ruling on a Child's Right to an Attorney.




The State Supreme Court for the first time recognized that children have "at least the same due process right to counsel as do indigent parents."

But that due process will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Should a child be granted the right to an attorney when his parents are accused of abuse or neglect?


Most states say the answer is yes, but in Washington dependency courts, it's been a matter of debate for years. Everyone agrees a lot is at stake: Children can lose not only their parents and their home, but also be separated from their siblings, their aunts and uncles, their school, their friends. They could bounce from one stranger's home to another in foster care.


The state Supreme Court took a big step toward answering that question in a 9-0 decision Thursday. Foster children "have vital liberty interests at stake and may constitutionally be entitled to counsel," Justice Tom Chambers wrote for the court.


Advocates believe the ruling will alter the landscape of dependency court, leading judges to appoint attorneys for more and more of the thousands of children entering the system. The state, which argued against the blanket appointment of lawyers, doesn't anticipate such a sea change.



The ruling came in the case of Nyakat Luak, a King County mother who was accused of serious neglect. In one instance, she went to work and left her 4-year-old twins at home, in charge of their baby sister, the court said. A fire broke out and a social worker took them into custody. Luak physically attacked the social worker as she escorted the kids from the hospital. On other occasions, she attacked a visitation supervisor and her boyfriend.



The courts never found that Luak had abused the kids. Yet when the Department of Social and Health Services told her she was at risk of losing them unless she underwent counseling, she declined, the opinion states. Her parental rights were terminated at trial.

On appeal, Luak's attorney argued that the kids, who were 10 by the time of the trial, should have had a court-appointed attorney.



Under Washington law, kids 12 and older must be told they have a right to ask for an attorney. (It's up to the judge to decide whether to appoint one.) Younger kids generally aren't given this option, although each county has its own rules.



Some 9,000 children are in foster care at any given point, according to attorney Casey Trupin, who wrote one of 20 friend-of-the-court briefs in the case. Yet no one keeps track of how many of them get lawyers.



Sometimes, a judge will appoint a Guardian ad Litem or a lay advocate to argue for what they believe are the child's best interests. A statewide group studying the issue several years ago found some children who are removed from their homes don't have anyone — attorney, Guardian ad Litem or lay advocate — to speak for them in court.



The Supreme Court for the first time recognized that children have "at least the same due process right to counsel as do indigent parents," Thursday's ruling states.



But that due process will be decided on a case-by-case basis, according to the opinion, which lays out for the first time criteria to guide trial-court judges.


"We do think as a result of this decision more and more parents, attorneys and judges will raise the issue, given the court has confirmed constitutional rights may be at stake," Trupin said.

Maureen O'Hagan: 206-464-2562 or mohagan@seattletimes.com
By Maureen O'Hagan - Seattle Times Staff Reporter __________________________


Most Popular Comments:

I disagree that this is a "big step" or even any progress at all. The existi... (March 2, 2012, by mihusky)This is a tricky one. I can see the downside of now having hordes of lawyers in the cou... (March 2, 2012, by Dorboln)This actually makes sense. Somebody should be there to represent the children's best... (March 1, 2012, by Almost a Libertarian)










A lie cannot live.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.

Shop Amazon from here. Thanks for your support!

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

“Changing a child last name (away from the father’s) is an act of venom”

The time is always right to do what is right.

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Search This Blog

Loading...

Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.

Abuse (7) Abuse of process (4) Admission to practice law (3) Adversarial system (83) Advocacy group (3) Alimony (7) All Pro Dad (1) All rights reserved (1) Allegation (2) Alliance for Justice (2) American Civil Liberties Union (3) American Psychological Association (1) Americans (2) Anecdotal evidence (2) Arrest (1) Bar association (1) Best interests (42) Bill (law) (1) British Psychological Society (1) Broward County (1) Broward County Public Schools (2) Catholic Church (1) Center for Public Integrity (2) Chief judge (26) Child Abuse (48) Child custody (76) Child development (6) Child neglect (2) Child protection (14) Child Protective Services (19) Child Support (63) Children (3) Children's Rights (81) Christmas (3) Circuit court (3) Civil and political rights (14) Civil law (common law) (1) Civil liberties (9) Civil Rights (145) Civil rights movement (1) Class action (1) Communist Party of Cuba (1) Confidentiality (1) Constitutional law (1) Constitutional right (5) Contact (law) (11) Contempt of court (4) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (1) Coparenting (27) Copyright (1) Copyright infringement (1) Corruption (1) Court Enabled PAS (93) Court order (2) Cuba (1) Cuban Missile Crisis (1) Cuban Revolution (1) Custodial Parent (1) Declaratory judgment (3) Denial of Reasonable Parent-Child Contact (111) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2) Divorce (121) Divorce Corp (6) Divorce Court (1) Documentary (25) Domestic Violence (49) Dr. Stephen Baskerville (5) Dred Scott v. Sandford (1) DSM-5 (1) DSM-IV Codes (1) Due Process (45) Due Process Clause (1) Dwyane Wade (1) Equal-time rule (2) Ethics (1) Events (10) Exposé (group) (1) Facebook (19) Fair use (1) False accusation (4) False Accusations (57) Family (1) Family (biology) (2) Family Court (196) Family Law (112) Family Law Reform (119) Family Rights (88) Family therapy (10) Father (12) Father figure (2) Father's Day (1) Father's Rights (12) Fatherhood (106) Fatherlessness Epidemic (4) Fathers 4 Justice (3) Fathers' rights movement (44) Fidel Castro (1) Florida (213) Florida Attorney General (7) Florida Circuit Courts (18) florida lawyers (30) Florida Legislature (5) Florida Senate (10) Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1) Fraud (1) Free Speech (1) Frivolous litigation (1) Fundamental rights (12) Gainesville (1) Gender equality (1) Government Accountability Project (2) Government interest (2) Grandparent (3) Havana (1) Healthy Children (14) Human Rights (117) I Love My Daughter (56) I Love My Son (9) Injunction (1) Innocence Project (1) Investigative journalism (1) Jason Patric (2) JavaScript (1) Joint custody (8) Joint custody (United States) (16) Judge (5) Judge Judy (7) Judge Manno-Schurr (56) Judicial Accountability (103) Judicial Immunity (7) Judicial misconduct (8) Judicial Reform (3) Judicial Watch (2) Judiciary (3) Jury trial (1) Kids for cash scandal (1) Law (2) Lawsuit (9) Lawyer (8) Legal Abuse (150) Liar Joel Greenberg (17) Linda Gottlieb (1) Litigant in person (1) Little Havana (1) Marriage (6) Matt O'Connor (1) Men's rights movement (1) Mental disorder (1) Mental health (2) Meyer v. Nebraska (1) Miami (43) Miami-Dade County (8) Miami-Dade County Public Schools (1) Miscarriage of justice (42) Mother (4) Motion of no confidence (1) Movie (4) Music (8) Nancy Schaefer (1) National Fatherhood Initiative (1) Natural and legal rights (1) News (90) Nixa Maria Rose (17) Non-governmental organization (1) Noncustodial parent (3) Organizations (60) Palm Beach County (1) Parent (34) Parental Alienation (116) Parental alienation syndrome (14) Parental Rights (35) Parenting (11) Parenting plan (5) Parenting time (6) Parents' rights movement (35) Paternity (law) (1) Personal Story (23) Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1) Pope (1) Posttraumatic stress disorder (27) President of Cuba (1) Pro Se (30) Pro se legal representation in the United States (3) Prosecutor (1) Protest (1) Psychologist (1) Public accommodations (1) Public Awareness (108) Raúl Castro (1) Re-Post/Re-Blog (12) Research (1) Restraining order (4) Rick Scott (10) Self Representation-Pro Se (31) Sexism (1) Sexual abuse (2) Sexual assault (1) Shared Parenting (90) Single parent (6) Skinner v. Oklahoma (1) Social Issues (60) Social Media (1) Spanish (8) Stand Up For Zoraya (48) State school (1) Student (1) Supreme Court of Florida (7) Supreme Court of the United States (5) Tampa (1) Testimony (23) Thanksgiving (2) The Florida Bar (7) Trauma (4) Troxel v. Granville (2) True Story (21) Turner v. Rogers (1) United States (24) United States Congress (1) United States Constitution (2) United States Department of Justice (3) Videos (51) Violence Against Women Act (1) Whistle-blower (3)