Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oregon Lawmakers Propose Alternative to Prison for Non-Violent Offenders with Kids

In an effort to keep families together Oregon is looking at giving judges discretion in sentencing when the offender has custody of children.  You can read about the program HERE.  What do you think?  Does Utah need something like this?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pending Utah Appeal on the Americans with Disabilities Act

At the Annual Conference one of the sessions was on the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act in Child Welfare Proceedings.  Many of you expressed interest in reading Neil Skousen's briefs in the appeal he has pending on the issue.

Neil has shared with us the Trial Brief in Support of Application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to Utah Child Welfare Cases and this Proceeding and the Brief of Appellant filed with the Utah Court of Appeals.  He would like you to know:
PDA members/attorneys may find this ADA research and pleadings helpful in their own child welfare cases throughout Utah Juvenile Courts. Although we raised the ADA or disability issues at permanency and termination proceedings, the ADA should be raised by parental defense counsel as early as possible in the case such at disposition, at the beginning of the reunification services portion of the case, or if services are being modified then somewhere in the middle of the reunification services portion of the case.

Thanks, Neil!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Use of Professionalism in Contacting DCFS Caseworkers by Robert Copier

In light of our recent post on Can Parental Defense Attorneys Communicate with DCFS Caseworkers? and the Ethics session at the Annual Conference, we have asked Robert Copier to give us his perspective on the subject.


The Parental Defense Alliance has asked me to share my thoughts about the part of an ethics presentation at the recent excellent Annual Conference that focused on the "hot issue" of contact between parental defense lawyers and DCFS caseworkers without an Assistant Attorney General present.  As Utah offers ethics advisory opinions, my first move was to request one.  See letter dated May 1, 2015, Scenario Three.

Beyond that, based on my four-decade career in auditing and law that started in 1975 during which I worked with and against, supervised, and audited some of the finest lawyers in the Utah State Bar, my take is that this "hot issue" actually falls within my maxim that in the living of life, 90% of problems are solved by money and the other 10% are solved by death, while in the practice of law, 90% of problems are solved by professionalism and the other 10% are solved by death.  Allow me to expand that thought.  At the outset of any new litigation matter, the best thing a lawyer can do is sit down face-to-face with opposing counsel and offer to try to get as much accomplished between professionals as possible so that judicial decision and intervention will be needed as little as possible.

Under such an approach, one can ascertain whether the Assistant AG prefers that the lawyer not contact the DCFS caseworker directly without the Assistant AG present.  If that is the Assistant AG's wish, honor it, but ask the Assistant AG to reciprocate by being reasonably available.  You can't control whether the Assistant AG honors your request, but you can stay professional by honoring the Assistant AG's request.  And any short-term inconveniences you face can usually be solved in the long-term, not only in child welfare cases, but in almost all juvenile, civil, probate, and criminal cases, since, except in a Capital Murder Case where the sentence of death has already been carried-out, you are usually not without litigation moves.

Indeed, even the "mandatory" tight deadlines in child welfare juvenile court cases yield to professionalism in which the lawyers can take control of the case in a professional manner and leave as little to judicial decision and intervention as possible. [D.H. v. State, 2014 UT 26, n. 4].   Parental defense lawyers should build on that helpful appeal decision and take control professionally.

It is amazing what professionalism can accomplish.  In my own situation, auditing and law were a second career after retiring from an earlier career and I was professionally positioned to be able to take long absences living abroad and other sojourns and sabbaticals away from the law and then returning to my litigation caseload and working on it in "concentrated streaks."  One would think this to be impossible, as opposing counsel would take advantage of those sojourns away from practice by actual or de facto defaults against me.  But anything like that can be cured after- the-fact through professionalism between counsel.  In my situation, that has consistently occurred through professionalism or will so occur [although a handful of opposing lawyers don't realize that yet].  Stay professional.  If an opposing Assistant AG doesn't want you to contact DCFS workers, then don't.  But, since you can ask anyone anything if you do it in a nice way, ask him or her to reciprocate by being reasonably available.  They may so reciprocate or they may not.  But you can control only your own professionalism, regardless of whether they reciprocate or not.

Happy to entertain any questions and give non-legal advice upon request at no charge to any PDA member or parental defense lawyer facing these situations.  Telephone (801) 272-2222.

Robert Henry Copier, 727


Monday, May 4, 2015

Save the Date for the Court Improvement Training

We are looking forward to the Court Improvement Skills Training this year.  Mark your calendars!  More details to come.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Annual Conference Wrap Up

Thank you for making this year's Annual Conference a success!  We had a fantastic turn out with over 150 people registered.  We are already looking forward to next year.

Congratulations to the 2015 PDA Award Winners:

Rookie of the Year:  Rob Latham
Trial Attorney of the Year:  Patty Beiderman
Appellate Attorney of the Year:  Matthew Carley
Special Service Award:  Kate Hansen
Lifetime Achievement Award:  Neil Skousen

If you haven't filled out a survey you can do that here:  SURVEY
This is a great way to let us know how we did and what we can do better for next year.

If you would like a CLE Certificate for your records you can find that here:  CLE CERTIFICATE

Tough Love Screening with Q&A to Follow

The Parental Defense Alliance of Utah is pleased to be sponsoring a screening of Tough Love from Emmy-nomiated filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal about two parents navigating the red tape of America's child welfare system as they fight to regain custody of their children.

WHEN: Friday, June 5, 2015 from 1:00pm to 3:30pm
(However you must register for tickets)

Following the screening the filmaker and one of the judges from the film will take questions from the audience.

For more information about the film visit
2.5 hours of CLE pending.


Offering a rare look at the inner workings of the American child welfare system, Tough Love chronicles the lives of two parents—one in Seattle and one in New York City—as each fights to be reunited with children taken out of their custody. Through intimate, verité footage of both families, we witness first-hand the complex and daunting bureaucracy of America’s family courts. Moreover, we come to understand the powerful role poverty and prejudice play in keeping parents and children apart— and the challenges parents must overcome in order to put their families back together.