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Children Should Have Standing to Appeal Dependency Rulings, ABA Urges Georgia Supreme Court

Children Should Have Standing to Appeal Dependency Rulings, ABA Urges Georgia Supreme Court

By Daniel Buchanan

CHICAGO, Sept. 24, 2012 – The American Bar Association is urging the Supreme Court of Georgia, in a case being watched nationally by state courts and child advocate groups, to hold that a minor who is the subject of a child-welfare proceeding and is represented by a lawyer has standing to appeal the trial court’s decision, even when the court-appointed nonlawyer advocate charged with presenting information about the child’s best interests objects to the appeal.

“To deny [the child] any opportunity to seek review of the trial court’s decision, or to challenge the findings of fact and errors of law, flies in the face of why counsel is appointed in the first place,” states the ABA, quoting from a Pennsylvania ruling, in an amicus brief filed in In the Interest of W.L.H., a Child.

“The ABA asserts that the child, in consultation with his attorney, must have a meaningful voice in deprivation proceedings, including standing to bring an appeal of a trial court’s rulings,” the brief states, noting that this is consistent with the attorney-client relationship previously recognized by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

In arguing that the child should have standing to appeal, the ABA brief “does not express any view on the merits of the appeal. Rather, the ABA asserts only that the child, through counsel, should have his or her day in court.”

The brief cites sources including the ABA Model Act Governing the Representation of Children in Abuse, Neglect and Dependency Proceedings. It notes that several ABA entities work on issues concerning the representation of children, including the ABA Center on Children and the Law, the ABA Criminal Justice Section Juvenile Justice Committee, the ABA Section of Litigation Children’s Rights Litigation Committee and the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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