The attorneys at the Michigan Children’s Law Center are court-appointed and represent children in child protective proceedings and delinquency cases in Wayne County Juvenile Court. We have handled over 24,000 petitions in Wayne County Juvenile Court and have represented more than 48,000 children.
MCLC attorneys serve as the Lawyer-Guardian Ad Litem (L-GAL) in child protective proceedings. The role of the L-GAL is a unique one. The L-GAL is responsible not only for protecting the legal rights of the client but also for serving as an independent voice for what is in the child’s best interests. Our duties as L-GAL include conducting an independent investigation in each case, meeting with and observing the child at regular intervals and assessing his or her needs or wishes, filing pleadings and calling witnesses on the child’s behalf, attending all hearings and monitoring the implementation of case plans and court orders to determine if services are being provided and if those services are beneficial to the child. See MCL 712a.17d.
In delinquency matters, the MCLC attorneys provide legal representation to minors charged with violations of laws or ordinances, running away from home, acts of incorrigibility, and school truancy.
We process all of the appeals on behalf of children, which average about 10 per month.
We also represent children on the special Baby Court docket, which has grown with the cooperation of the Chief Referee in Juvenile Court and DHHS Administration. In Baby Court, each case has an assigned Infant Mental Health therapist who works with the parents, child, other family members, and foster parents.
We are responsible for the Absent Without Legal Permission (AWOLP) docket and all adoptions and guardianships processed through the court.
In November 2015, we were given the responsibility for the Drug Court docket. This special docket involves three courtrooms and convenes on Monday evenings. One of our attorneys, Eliot Zipser, spearheads this assignment and has considerable experience as he worked in the same capacity in Oakland County for eight years. The STAND (Supervised Treatment for Alcohol and Narcotic Dependency) Program's mission is to "provide an integrated system of treatment for juveniles and their families within a drug court setting" and "to eliminate the juvenile's substance abuse and delinquent behavior by utilizing jurisprudence and case management."
MCLC is a participant in the Mental Health docket and named Berlinda Good, who is both an attorney and a nurse, to represent us on the court’s Psychotropic Medication Protocol Committee. Additionally, the members of the EAU assist in school matters relating to the participants in the Mental Health docket in front of Judge Edward Joseph.
MCLC also has gained considerable experience serving as the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) in family court matters having represented children in over 180 custody and parenting time disputes. In this capacity, the Center advocates for the best interest of the children. In each case, the assigned attorney conducts a complete investigation into the issues involves and prepares and submits a report to the court with findings and recommendations and participates in all court hearings.