Another DC Court of Appeals Clinic Victory
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Posted by: Prof. Matt Fraidin
Congratulations, again, to our students, Professor LaShanda Taylor Adams, and our former colleague, Professor Tanya Cooper, who on August 22, again, emerged from the D.C. Court of Appeals with a major victory in a child welfare case. (As you will recall, the clinic also received a favorable opinion from the D.C. Court of Appeals on July 25, in In re Ang.P., on behalf of a mother improperly judged neglectful simply because she was groggy from medication administered after she underwent back surgery.)
The opinion issued on August 22 is In re Ta.L. In this case, the clinic represented E.A., paternal aunt of two children, in trial court proceedings for nearly four years, including in a three-day contested adoption trial. The children's mother and father sought to have E.A. adopt the children, but the trial court allowed unrelated foster parents to do so, instead.
The clinic then appealed on E.A.'s behalf and filed the briefs, as well as numerous motions, in the Court of Appeals. UDC DCSL alumna, Joyce Aceves-Amaya '10, (photo above) conducted the oral argument for E.A. The School of Law's D.C. Child Abuse and Neglect Moot Court Project convened two moot court sessions for Aceves-Amaya and the lawyers representing the children's mother and father, with moot court judges drawn from the DCSL faculty, U.S. Department of Energy, the Counsel for Child Abuse and Neglect panel, and the law firms of Sidley Austin and Baker Botts.
In a unanimous August 22, 2013 decision, authored by Chief Judge Eric Washington and described by Jack Keeney, The Legal Aid Society's appellate division director, as a "landmark opinion," the Court of Appeals found that the trial judge improperly disregarded the wishes of the children's parents. The Court upheld Constitutional principles by finding that the parents' decisions about the best interests of their children should be given "weighty consideration," vindicating the legal argument the clinic made repeatedly throughout the trial and appellate proceedings. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether the children would be harmed by residing with their aunt, whom the trial judge himself acknowledged was a fit caregiver for the children. That matter is currently pending.
Kudos, again, to Professors Adams and Cooper, and to the clinic students, now graduated, whose hard work, creativity, and dedication brought about this important victory: Mollie Byron, Aleia Barlow, Erin Hurd, Michael Beckham, Crystal Stanley, Shalena Caesar Williams, Brianna Ford, Jason West, Courtney Dixon, Mary Virginia Andraos, Aida Vindell, John Marlow, Aysha Gregory, Jasmin Tohidi, Jennifer Blemur, Leandra Carrasco, Deidre Brown, Jamie Stevens, Megan Challender, Ernesto Bartels, Meredith Mathis, Julie Case, Carl Engstrand, Angela Watson, Elizabeth Stinebaugh, Sadredin Mahmoudi, Stacey Massaro, Jason Zelbo, Taso Saunders, and Caitlin Cavness.
This is a link to the decision, In re Ta.L.:
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The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, www.law.udc.edu, is among the nation's most racially, ethnically, class and age-diverse law schools. Its minimum of 740 hours of clinical public interest legal service - a sum exceeded by most of its students - is clear evidence that the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law is America's preeminent public interest law school.