Panel sets standards for lawyers appointed to represent children Panel sets standards for lawyers appointed to represent children Jan Pudlow Senior Editor When a lawyer agrees to represent an abused or neglected child, it can become a confusing stumble through a bureaucratic maze to get needed special services.Beyond dependency court, the child may need to ask for help at administrative proceedings involving the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the state Department of Health, as well as the Department of Children and Families.In an unprecedented move, The Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee, at the Midyear Meeting in Miami, approved a 22-page document spelling out specific roles and responsibilities of Florida attorneys ad litem appointed to represent children in dependency matters.Titled “Florida Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases,” it represents more than two years of conference calls and reviews of national standards and 16 state standards.Angela Orkin, executive director of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program, said she will use the standards immediately with attorneys ad litem who contract with her office to represent children.“We are excited about it for our own purposes, because it is a very well-drafted document,” Orkin said. “It provides wonderful guidance to attorneys in this field. We are looking forward to using it.”Gerry Glynn, chair of the Legal Needs of Children Committee, said, “Many times, lawyers don’t have a clear understanding what the court expects of them or children expect of them. The committee wanted to develop standards to help lawyers understand what the law expects of them through court appointment and help them fulfill their obligation and expand what the rule of professional conduct means. We hope that these standards serve as guidelines used by lawyers to fulfill zealous advocacy to help children.”The next step, Glynn said, is to seek Bar Board of Governors approval of the standards.“If that isn’t approved, we would still use them as educational tools for lawyers,” Glynn said. “We will put it out there and try to see if problems and concerns arise. If we are to ask the court to adopt it, it wouldn’t be as lengthy.”The printed standards go a long way toward carrying out one of the recommendations of the predecessor Legal Needs of Children Commission that issued a final report in 2002 and that was chaired by 11th Circuit Judge Sandy Karlan.“The commission members determined through public hearings and a review of the rules that there were no clear standards for lawyers who represent children in our courts, and, therefore, children were not assured of a consistent quality of representation on matters affecting their daily lives,” said Karlan, who also serves on the current committee.“Consequently, an important recommendation of the commission was to draft standards. It is a great accomplishment that the committee members have been able to unanimously agree on the standards for lawyers representing children in juvenile proceedings. Our children will be better served.”Actually, there was one “nay” vote on accepting the standards. That came from Sharon Langer, a Board of Governors member and liaison to the committee, who served on the original commission and directs the Dade County Bar Association Legal Aid Society.“I think it’s important that we have standards,” Langer said. “But it seems to me you should have standards that are workable. These standards became a laundry list of every possible thing one could do for a child. It’s drafted so broadly that it is not a realistic expectation. I am concerned about liability. The people most vulnerable would be pro bono lawyers.”Glynn acknowledged that “there is always a threat when you put out guidelines that there would be liability. The preamble to the Code of Professionalism says it is not to be used for liability. Is there always that threat? Yes. But it is more important for lawyers to have guidance in what they are doing. To me, the need for guidance is much more important than the threat of liability.”After the vote at the Midyear Meeting, Vice Chair Carlos Martinez, with the 11th Circuit Public Defender’s Office, said the group will next tackle standards for representing children in delinquency court.“This is a big significant step as far as making sure we improve the practice and increase it to a level that children will get better representation,” Martinez said. “It’s a great first step, especially with the Guardian ad Litem taking the lead on this. They are setting the bar for what the practice should be, and they are to be commended on that.”Orkin said the 160 attorneys within the GAL program already have clear standards on doing their jobs. But with the private attorneys her office contracts with as attorneys ad litem, Orkin said, “There wasn’t really any guidance out there.”“One of the things we talked about as we were developing the standards is: How are we going to make use of them, given that they need to go through a formal process? Because we contract with attorneys around the state, we felt like we were in a position to take the text and use it in our contracts as a way of educating the attorneys on what the difference is when you are representing a child,” Orkin said.“In our view, it’s more about understanding what your role is. Even though it says you should represent a child just like you do an adult, there are a lot of different levels, and with dependent children, a lot of different systems.”Dennis Moore, an attorney with the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program, said, “We have been using national standards adopted by the National Association of Counsel of Children. This is really the first time that a group of knowledgeable people have sat down to say: ‘These are the issues that are important to Florida children,’ and put it all in one document.“But we need to work and flesh that out, practically speaking. That’s why the committee adopted those as guidelines and aspirational goals before we got to a point where it was going to become the rule of law or rules regulating The Florida Bar. We need to flesh them out, and we have an opportunity to work with the Bar to do that.”Howard Talenfeld, a Ft. Lauderdale attorney, president of Florida’s Children First and a member of the committee, helped add language to the standards at the meeting.“Representing a child in the dependency system is far more complex than it once was,” Talenfeld said. “It used to be we had an umbrella system where a district administrator could say to someone who worked for him, ‘The child needs disability benefits. The child needs mental health benefits. Give it to him!’ Now, that child is in a position when they are represented, where they need to apply independently to other agencies to get those benefits,” Talenfeld said, listing such proceedings as staffings with Family Service Planning Teams and Suitability Assessments for Residential Treatment Facilities.“My own sense is the first time someone writes down something is important, and they serve as models for future refinement of the roles and opportunities to represent children,” Talenfeld said.“To that extent, we finally have something that is precedent-setting that addresses the Florida system, and that is wonderful.” GAL program to begin using them immediately March 1, 2007 Regular News
APEM will complete a final survey over Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard East site this month, as part of an eight month project to gather data on birds and marine mammals in the area.Eight surveys were flown out from Norwich International Airport at monthly intervals between September 2015 and April 2016 and the resulting images were analysed by APEM’s in-house ornithology team.They reveal data on the numbers and distribution of bird species throughout the non-breeding period in this area of the southern North Sea, including auks, gannets, kittiwakes and fulmars.Vattenfall will use analysis of the survey data as part of its environment impact assessment.The power company started developing the 1.8GW Norfolk Vanguard in mid-March. The wind farm is situated 47 kilometres off the coast at Winterton Ness, and is expected to enter the offshore construction phase by the early 2020s. It could comprise up to 225 turbines.Next year, Vattenfall will also commence development of the nearby Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farm with a capacity of another 1.8GW, for which it aims to get the irrevocable consent by 2021.