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DC Ct. of Appeals Clinic Victory for DC Parents

Monday, August 5, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matt Fraidin
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Tanya A. CooperThe D.C. Court of Appeals issued an opinion on July 25, 2013, in In re Ang. P. and And. P., reversing the trial court's finding that two children (5 and 14 years old) were neglected by their mother.  The brief for the mother was filed by UDC-DCSL law students under the supervision of teaching fellow Tanya A. Cooper, who was recently awarded a UDC-DCSL LL.M. degree in Clinical Teaching, Social Justice, and System Change.

The trial court found that the children were neglected because the mother had undergone back surgery, recovery from which required her to take medications which, at times, caused her to become drowsy in the children's presence. The court thus found that the children were "without proper parental care and control" and that the mother was "unable to discharge her parental responsibilities" due to "physical incapacity."

Reversing, the Court of Appeals pointed out that at no time was And. P. (five years old) without supervision by the mother, or Ang. P. herself (14), or one of the mother's adult children, or a combination of those individuals. The Court noted that the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency's own policies permit a 12 year old to serve as a babysitter for a younger child and in fact, the children were not harmed or at risk of harm.  

In passing, the Court of Appeals also unequivocally rejected arguments (as had the trial court) made by the government that the children were neglected not only because of the mother's reaction to medication, but also because the children's immunizations were not up to date, because the mother had outstanding bills, and because the mother "failed to ensure that [her] child regularly arrives on time for non-mandatory pre-kindergarten classes."  The Court of Appeals noted that "the government does not cite to a case, and we have not found one," that would support a finding that children are neglected under those mundane circumstances.

We cheer the victory and applaud the students, Professor Cooper, and their strong, determined client. It is bittersweet, nonetheless, to know that after three years of being separated unnecessarily from their mother, only now do the children finally get to go home.

Matthew I. Fraidin
Associate Professor of Law
University of the District of Columbia
David A. Clarke School of Law


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The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law,, 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.

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