The Children and Youth Law Clinic Fellows are 3L law students who support clinic faculty and students in a variety of capacities: screening new cases, mentoring and collaborating with interns, engaging in client advocacy in select cases, and leading several law reform advocacy initiatives. All three have provided invaluable assistance to faculty, interns and clients. Here are their reflections of some of their experiences from the fall 2009 semester.
"Since the day I began law school I have wanted to transform the way our system provides access to justice and seek to ensure that there is equality in gaining access to legal representation. Working with the CYLC, first as a 2L intern and now as a certified legal intern/fellow, I see first-hand how unequal the “real world” actually is when it comes to the justice system. The model for this truth has been one of my most eye-opening and rewarding experiences.
Taking my first case before an Administrative Law Judge this fall on appeal of a disability determination by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), I experienced just how much our advocacy is needed by the former foster care youth we represent. With the support of a 2L intern, I was able to represent our client in the courtroom and subsequently compose the comprehensive proposed recommended order that would bring together the elements of the oral argument and the documentary evidence we had put forth. We in no way considered our case a 'slam dunk,' but just last week, we received the order stating we had won the appeal.
Regardless of whether a student wants to go into the public or private sector, the skills are the same – through CYLC we have the opportunity to learn by handling cases with some of the best support and encouragement from our attorney supervisors that anyone could hope for. There is no replacement for that education."
"One of my most significant projects this past semester was to supervise a group of 2L interns in the CYLC's Independent Living Workgroup. The interns and I have created a systematic approach to educate DCF staff on “best practices” for independent living services for youth who age out of foster care. To achieve this goal, my group has produced a PowerPoint presentation describing the foster care services mandated by the Florida Independent Living Statute. This will be presented to caseworkers in an effort to improve the services and resources provided to their clients.
Additionally, the workgroup led a CYLC class discussion about possible improvements to an assessment instrument used by DCF to determine the funds that former foster care clients are entitled to receive under the state's Road to Independence statute. From this class discussion, I drafted a memorandum summarizing our collective recommendations to amend the DCF 'needs assessment' form, which we will present to DCF at an upcoming statewide policy conference. The most gratifying element of my experiences is that I am able to improve the quality of services provided to foster youth and also to develop proposals for law reform to effectuate that goal.
My work as a fellow has helped to propel me further on my public interest legal career path. I am grateful and humbled to have been selected to serve as a fellow this year."
"My participation as a fellow in the CYLC has given me unparalleled experience to practice skills related to advocacy, trial strategy, drafting, client interviewing and counseling, and attorney supervision.
However, the highlight of my clinical experience was my oral argument as a Certified Legal Intern before the Supreme Court in support of Rule 8.100(a), a proposed change to the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure designed to end the routine and blanket shackling of children appearing in juvenile court. Mirroring the current practice in the Miami-Dade Juvenile Courts, the proposed rule would allow juvenile shackling in the courtroom only upon a judge's individualized finding of need.
Based on an amicus brief authored by a former CYLC fellow, under the supervision of Professor Bernard Perlmutter, I argued that the practice of routine and blanket juvenile shackling was antithetical to the uniquely therapeutic and rehabilitative purposes of the juvenile justice system. Though the Court has yet to decide on the proposed rule, the bench was receptive to our arguments, and we remain optimistic for a favorable outcome."
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.
Children & Youth Law Clinic Sways Florida Supreme Court to Abolish Shackling of Juveniles. Read more.