FIU Law Family & Children’s Law Clinic Successful in 3rd District Court of Appeal Case

MIAMI (February 2, 2012) – Under the supervision of Professor Laverne Pinkney, staff attorney Ricardo Rodriguez ‘10 of the Family and Children Law Clinic  successfully argued a case before the Third District Court of Appeal on behalf of a 12 year old child whose express wishes were to be with her mother.

The clinic argued that the Court must consider the express wishes of a child who is old enough and capable of expressing them. In a decision handed down on February 1, DM and BA vs. DCF, the Court reversed a termination of parental rights holding against the mother (BA) and affirmed as to the father (DM).  The court found no clear and convincing evidence that the rights of BA, a survivor of domestic violence, should be terminated because she was improving with treatment, having positive interactions with her children, and because expert testimony showed that it takes about a year for therapy for domestic violence victims to work.

The Department of Children & Families (DCF) had delayed offering any therapy at all and then mistakenly referred her to perpetrator’s therapy, using months out of the year in which the case plan was to be completed.  While the Court rejected the clinic’s second argument that the Guardian-at-Litem had a conflict of interest in representing children with different wishes, the outcome of the case was clearly affected by the clinic’s argument on behalf of AM’s express wishes to be with her mother.  Staff attorneys Raquel Trujillo and Michelle Gonzalez and 3L students Zamir Cruz, Eva Smith and Philip Colesanti also worked on briefs in the case.

- FIU-

About FIU College of Law:
Florida International University College of Law is South Florida’s publicly supported law school. The Princeton Review ranks FIU as one of the nation’s most welcoming schools for diverse students and Hispanic Business has ranked FIU among the top ten law schools for Hispanics. The National Jurist ranks FIU among the top ten schools in the country for best value in legal education. FIU’s faculty continues to gain national prominence, most recently recognized by the Sisk Report as 3rd in Florida for Faculty Scholarly Impact. Unique among law schools, FIU places particular emphasis on integrating international law into every aspect of its curriculum.

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