Justice Denied: The Crisis in Legal Representation of Birth Parents in Child Protective Proceedings

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Transcript of Justice Denied: The Crisis in Legal Representation of Birth Parents in Child Protective Proceedings

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    JUSTICE DENIEDTHE CRISIS IN LEGAL REPRESENTATIONOF

    BIRTH PARENTS IN CHILD PROTECTIVE PROCEEDINGS

    A Report by

    Mark Green

    Public Advocate

    for the City of New York

    and

    C-PLAN: Child Planning and Advocacy Now,

    a special project of the Accountability Project, Inc.

    Hank Orenstein, C-PLAN Director

    Deirdre OSullivan, C-PLAN Special Counsel

    Laurel W. Eisner, General Counsel, Office of the Public Advocate

    May 2000

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    Acknowledgments

    SPECIAL THANKS TO:

    Howard Goodman

    Dalia HusbandJason Kanter

    Jennifer Muhle

    Amy Randall

    Felicia Summers

    C-PLAN staff and interns

    for their assistance in producing this report

    We also thank former C-PLAN Director, Jane Golden, for her efforts in initiating this study

    We also thank the following people for their assistance and cooperation in providing us with

    information and guidance: Katharine Law, Director, Law Guardian Program, First Department;

    Harriet Weinberger, Director, Law Guardian Program, Second Department; Monica Drinane,

    Attorney-In-Charge, Juvenile Rights Division, Legal Aid Society; Lauren Shapiro, Director,

    Family Law Unit, Brooklyn Legal Services; Charles Hollander, Deputy General Counsel, Division

    of Legal Services, Administration for Childrens Services; Michael Arsham, Director, Child

    Welfare Organizing Project; Lynn Slater, Lawyers for Children; Honorable Joseph M. Lauria,

    Administrative Judge, New York City Family Court; Rosemarie Wyman, former Court Attorney

    to Judge Joseph Lauria; Edwina Richardson, Member, Assigned Counsel Panel and Advisory

    Committee, First Department; Prof. Martin Guggenheim, NYU Law School; and Martha Raimon,former C-PLAN Staff Attorney

    and

    To all the parents, attorneys and judges who were willing to share their experiences

    in Family Court

    C-PLAN WISHES TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE SUPPORT OF THE FOLLOWING

    SUPPORTERS OF OUR FAMILY COURT INITIATIVE:

    Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, The Child Welfare Fund, Morrison & Foerster Foundation.

    WE ARE ALSO GRATEFUL TO OUR OTHER FUNDERS FOR THEIR SUPPORT OF THE C-

    PLAN PROJECT:

    Lily Auchincloss Foundation, David & Minnie Berk Foundation, Edna F. Blum Foundation, JENJO

    Foundation, Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation, Louis & Harold Price Foundation, Nate B. &

    Frances Spingold Foundation, Van Ameringen Foundation

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    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i

    INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

    I - THE ANATOMY OF THE SYSTEM

    A. The Evolution of the Right to Counsel in New York City

    Family Court . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

    B. New York Citys Child Welfare System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

    1. The Statutory Scheme . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

    2. Who Represents the Parties in Abuse and Neglect Proceedings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    a. Legal Counsel for the Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    b. Legal Counsel for the City (ACS) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

    c. Legal Counsel for the Parents (Respondents) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

    II - THE CRISIS IN FAMILY COURT

    A. The Grossly Insufficient Number of Attorneys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

    1. The First Department (Manhattan and the Bronx) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

    2. The Second Department (Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

    B. Timing of the Assignment of Counsel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

    C. Duration of the Assignment of Counsel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

    D. Inadequate Fees Lead to Inadequate Representation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

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    1. Difficulty Recruiting and Retaining Attorneys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

    2. Disincentive to Perform Out-of-Court Work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

    E. Lack of Institutionalized Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

    F. The Lack of Specialization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

    G. Insufficient Accountability and Judicial Oversight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

    H. The Impact on Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

    III - RECOMMENDATIONS

    A. Short Term Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

    1. Increase Reimbursement Rates to $75 Per Hour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

    2. Expand Pilot Projects Providing Interdisciplinary Representation to Respondents 36

    3. Establish Specialized Panels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

    4. Establish Continuity of Representation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40

    5. Increase Oversight and Accountability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

    6. Replicate and Expand the Successful Model Courts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

    B. Long-Term Recommendation - An Organization for Parent Representation . . . . . . . . . . 44

    CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

    APPENDICES

    A. Regulations Governing Assigned Counsel

    1. First Department Assigned Counsel Panel Application

    2. Second Department Assigned Counsel Panel Application

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    B. Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, Assigned Counsel Plan Attorney Payments,

    (1998)

    C. First Department Appellate Divisions Report to the New York State Unified Court System,

    Representation of Indigent Defendants, (1998)

    D. Second Department Appellate Divisions Report to the New York State Unified Court

    System, Representation of Indigent Defendants, (1998)

    E. Christianson, S., Cut-Rate Justice or High-Priced Fleecing?, Empire State Report (May

    1999)

    F. Sample Client Bill of Rights

    G. C-PLAN Survey

    H. About C-PLAN

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    1 The City of New York, Office of the Comptroller, Bureau of Management Audit, Audit o f the Administration for

    Childrens Services Efforts to Move Child ren Out of Foster Care , (November 30, 1999). Recognizing that New York

    City children spend too much time in foster care, the Administration for Childrens Services (ACS) developed the

    STAR (Safe and Timely Adoptions and Reunifications) Program to create flexible funding for foster care agencies to

    suppor t a continuum of services for families. ACS, The STAR Program: Program Description (February 2000).

    2 Telephone interview with Mike Kharfen, Director of Public Affairs for the Administration of Children and Families,

    Health and Human Services (April 11, 2000).

    3As of June 30, 1999, there were 36,648 children in care, as reported by the Administration for Childrens Services,

    Reform Plan Indicators Status Report 2 (March 2000) at 98.

    4 This is based on an average cost of $15,000 per year to keep a child in a foster care boarding h ome (a family home)

    and an average cost of $54,000 per year to keep a child in congregate care facility. Approximately four-fifths of

    i

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    There is nearly unanimous agreement among Family Court practitioners, judges and child welfare

    advocates that the current system for providing legal counsel to indigent parents accused of abuse and

    neglect in New York City neither protects the rights of parents nor serves the best interests of children.

    It denies parents due process, profoundly disrupts family life, and leads to inappropriately lengthy and

    costly foster care stays for children.

    New York State law grants parents accused of neglect or abuse the right to counsel in Family

    Court proceedings. For those families who cannot afford to hire their own lawyers, Article 18-B of the

    State County Law authorizes assignment of government-subsidized lawyers (known colloquially as

    assigned counsel or 18-B lawyers). That system is now in severe crisis. The reimbursement rates

    are grossly disproportionate to the cost of maintaining a law practice; th