The Children & Youth Law Clinic has recently submitted amicus curiae briefs in a series of state and federal appellate cases raising significant constitutional and legal issues for children.
In DCF v Gill, a challenge to the constitutionality of Florida's law prohibiting gays and lesbians from adopting children, the CYLC participated in a brief arguing that the categorical exclusion of gays and lesbians from adopting interferes with children's fundamental constitutional interest in secure and stable family relationships, unnecessarily prolongs their custodial confinement in foster care, and violates the equal protection rights of children in the custody of gay caregivers. The brief, prepared by the University of Florida Levin College of Law Center on Children and Families on behalf of three law school child advocacy clinics and five law professors, was filed in Florida's Third District Court of Appeal in June 2009. Read more.
In Sam M. v. Carcieri, the CYLC was one of 15 children's advocacy organizations and law professors joining a brief filed by the National Association of Counsel for Children in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in August 2009. The appeal challenges the dismissal of a class action lawsuit on behalf of approximately 3,000 abused and neglected children dependent on the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families. The children's complaint alleged that the state violates their rights under the Constitution and federal law by failing to provide them with basic safety, protection, and care — often resulting in serious harm. The district court dismissed the case in April 2009, ruling that the adults serving as the children's legal representatives, or “next friends,” were inadequate because they were not the children's family court law guardians and did not have current relationships with the children. The amicus brief argues that the District Court decision requiring the law guardians to litigate the case bars foster children from seeking federal relief of civil rights violations. Read more.
In Bellevue School District v. E.S., the CYLC joined an amicus brief filed in December 2009 in the Washington State Supreme Court by the Juvenile Law Center, supporting a lower court ruling that a student has a due process right to counsel at the initial hearing of a truancy proceeding under juvenile court jurisdiction. The amicus offers a national perspective on the prevailing trend among states to secure counsel for children in truancy proceedings, and argues that the complex sociological causes of truancy, as well as the potential collateral consequences of an adjudication, require representation by counsel in truancy proceedings. The brief was submitted on behalf of ten children's law clinics, child advocacy organizations and law professors. Read more.
In DCF v. K.D., the CYLC filed a brief in April 2010 in Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal in support of a former foster child denied independent living benefits because she aged out of foster care while living with a non-relative. The brief, submitted on behalf of the CYLC and Florida's Children First, argues that denying these benefits is not based on a rational distinction between youth in licensed care and those placed with non-relatives, that the distinction violates the child's federal rights under the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act, and that the youth's due process rights were violated because she was not provided a lawyer when forced to choose between licensed care (and potential benefits) or unlicensed care and continued visitation with a younger sibling. Three interns worked on this brief with Professor Bernard Perlmutter: Eric Schmelzer, Dale Dobuler and Caitlin Currie. Read more.
These briefs illustrate the clinic's prominent national and statewide role on behalf of children in cases implicating important constitutional and statutory rights.
An introduction to the Children and Youth Law clinic.
Why participate in this clinic: Graduate Evian White, J.D. '10 discusses how the clinic taught her to be a holistic lawyer and treat the child-client-issue as a whole. She also appreciates the essential tools she gained to become a better counselor, mediator, problem solver and listener, and how her experiences will impact her life and legal career.