Sunday, January 17, 2010


NYLJ 5/2/07


NYLJ 5/14/07

2. AGENCIES HIRED TO REPRESENT PARENTS ON ABUSE AND NEGLECT, sub: some cases shifted from 18-B lawyers in 3 boros

It was Herbert Hoover’s great misunderstanding that “volunteerism” would take over from Federal services in filling in the gaps for those who had lapsed into the Great Depression.

Today, Family Court is shifting representation of parents of neglected and abused children from appointed private lawyers to non-profit. And, yes, they all have powerful-sounding names and seem to cover all boroughs—the 175 lawyer group for Brooklyn, 31 lawyer group for the Bronx, and the 5 lawyer group for Manhattan. But you have to wonder: when child welfare authorities already have you behind the proverbial 8-ball, who you gonna call?

This could actually be seen as a breakthrough opportunity to do the work right, instead of relying on the Article 18-B provision of the County Law that requires judges to appoint lawyers. And anybody recognizes that there’s plenty of work to go around. Yet that doesn’t stop the current crop of 18-B atty’s from wondering if this isn’t the foot in the door to their ousting. When change is in the wind, you either tack into it or get capsized—that’s what a sailor would tell you…not a bloodhound. That’s what a scent will do for you; create suspicion and get you ready to give chase. It all depends on what way it grabs you.

'So, time to pack it in, crate it up, take the name off the door and give the plants to the secretarial pool. Family court just won’t be the same—it will be much less. There will be neglect and abuse cases that no one will touch—no lawyer or social worker will ever open that can of worms, let alone try a fishing expedition. But the silver lining?—sure! A cap to caseloads! Even better: because you can’t take on any more work, there isn’t going to be any more abuse or neglect, right? In Albany, of course, the Capital Defender’s Office has had their budget doubled—so isn’t that nice? All one needs to do is a have a family crisis recognized by the state, right?'

“I don’t think irony is going to help here.” The Legal Aid Supervisor leans against his doorframe, those half-specs making her look ever more like a cat eyeing a hole in the floorboard. "Yes," she confirms, "you were muttering again. I'll be good for you to go into private practice."

“Under Article 18-B, I get $75phr for felonies and $60phr for misdemeanors and family court.”

“Which means?”

“Which means, amongst other things, I get $15phr less to listen to children crying and perps lying than I do in traffic court, L&T or—“

“And you don’t have to think about Nixmary Brown or all the other babies who die because of budget cuts with a 147% increase in cases, do you?”

"Math was never my strong suit. And I look much better in pinstripes than courderoy."

"I wouldn't worry about the dress code if I were you," is her parthian shot over-the-shoulder in departure. "With your credentials, you'd be likelier to get them from the Yankees than a Fortune 500 outfit."

Shouting at the shot, "Hey, can I count on you for a letter of recommendation to Girardi?"

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