Law clinics improve community life, serve as teaching tool, Pt. 1

Family and Children’s Advocacy Clinic

At the Family and Children’s Advocacy Clinic, cases often are referred by judges. “We often work with the bench on referrals and also with the guardian ad litem program,” said FIU Law Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor Laverne Pinkney, director of the clinic. “What’s most admirable is that our students show a deep concern and dedication to all of our cases.”

In 2009, Pinkney’s team began collaborating with Lawyers for Children America, to represent several foster children in the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Dependency and Family Courts.

“The Family and Children’s Advocacy Clinic at FIU’s College of Law has earned a reputation for providing quality legal representation,” said Claire Subran, a Lawyers for Children America attorney. “It is an essential asset to the community.”

The clinic has advocated successfully on cases involving special education, mental health, as well as physical abuse, neglect or abandonment. It recently won an appeal in a case involving custody of a 10-year-old girl before the Third District Court of Appeal and made case law in the process.

“We mostly work on cases involving low-income families,” said Karina Rodriguez ’03, JD ’08, a staff attorney who works with several of the clinics at the college. “These are people who don’t have very many assets with straightforward cases, like divorces, child/spousal support, custody, that can’t afford representation. We really are a resource that more and more people are discovering.”

The other half of the caseload at the clinic revolves around students with special needs who require assistance acquiring the services they need to thrive.

“We get a lot of cases of children with ADHD or behavioral problems,” Rodriguez said. “We work with their schools to set up individual education plans to determine how best to place these children and only go to hearings if cases can’t be resolved. We advocate on their behalf.”