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    Tuesday, June 25, 2013


    Karen Deanna Williams, Esquire

    Clarence Earl?

    You had a conversation with my husband today. There is a snowball careening towards an exceptionally hot place that has a better chance of remaining a snowball than you have of enticing me into your pipe dream. My answer is an unequivocal "no". You see, we are . . . the dependency bar!

    Neil M. Krum, Esq.

    What a great point! – They need to “raise their level of practice”! Clearly, that’s the problem. ... Really?

    The comment (by a person whom I have never seen in 10 years in Dependency Court) is directed towards “The Wheel” – private attorneys who are certified to accept Court appointments to represent indigent parties in Dependency Court. After all, the City proposes nothing to “raise the level of practice” of anyone else in the Court.

    Wheel attorneys have every single credential required of all other attorneys who represent parties in Dependency Court.

    Oh, except the others do not need to be certified by the Court, to my knowledge. Oh, yeah, the others also are instead “certified” by politicians, often – that’s how they got their jobs. And, if they do not do their jobs properly, there are virtually no consequences to them. Wheel attorneys – after every single court hearing - need to obtain the Judge’s approval to be paid for that hearing. Plus, the Court can (and does) remove Wheel attorneys IMMEDIATELY when they do not meet the Court’s standards.

    I have many questions about the representation provided by those other, non-Wheel attorneys. But I would never make an accusation in that regard, unless I was ready to back it up in a complaint to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. I believe that is the proper, and ethical, procedure to follow. Not by making blanket statements in public, with nothing to back them up.

    Incidentally, I am a Wheel attorney who actually participated in the City’s bid process. However, I did so as part of the only effort to utilize attorneys who are currently on the Wheel, and who are certified by the Court. I would never support any disparagement or unfair treatment of attorneys on the Wheel, who are overwhelmingly dedicated, well-qualified professionals.

    Karen Deanna Williams, Esquire

    I am reminded that another of the Deputy Mayor's stated goals is "policing" the court-appointed bar. I fail to see what he could possibly hope to accomplish by entrusting the "policing" of attorneys with no ethical infractions on their records to one thrice disciplined. Once again, we have smoke and mirrors.

    Joseph Q. Mirarchi, Esquire

    Literal insults? Are these what Philadelphia's Executive Office rests its reasoning on to seek change in the functioning of our State's Criminal and Dependency Courts?

    Why not question the functionality of these Courts by reviewing the staffing of the thinning Judiciary and the sparse staff which the City provides to support them?

    If the State and City were to properly staff these Courts, the attorneys appearing before them—whether Court Appointed or Privately Retained--would be able to best serve their clients because the courts would function more efficiently and productively.

    No attorney would be forced to sit around all day waiting for a scheduled case to be called or have multiple cases booked in different courtrooms at the same time. No attorney would be forced to lose other opportunities to be employed because they are being held to their professional and ethical obligations to appear be fore the courts on any court appointed matters.

    I do not raise question with the Administrative Offices of these Courts. They can only work with what the City gives them to operate with and on to administer justice.

    Let the truth be known, the unprofessional and disparaging comments of Deputy Mayor Gillison are nothing more than a red hearing to avoid his Office's own role in the management of these courts.

    These comments are also made in clear retaliation against certain members of the Court Appointed Criminal and Dependency Bars (including myself) who very recently exercised their constitutional rights before the State Supreme Court, as well as in City Council, to question the existing state of affairs and actions of his Office in trying to indirectly control those courts by proposing to eliminate the role of Court Appointed Counsel--without any serious evaluation of their role and any possible replacements.

    Is it really rational to request and accept proposals from Law Firms which never practiced in these areas of law?

    It is even more rational to award such proposals without first evaluating the actual costs involved in operating in those courts to see if the City's existing and future budgets allow for enough of an allocation to fund such proposals if awarded?

    The allocations which I refer to, and which presently go to Court Appointed Counsel, as well as to funding the operation of the Department of Human Services and certain Departments of the City Solicitors' Office and the District Attorney's Office, make up such an incredible amount of the City's Budget which the Executive Office fails to manage effectively.

    One cannot be assessed without the other.

    It should be the function of every Bar Member, City Council and the Court to strictly scrutinize any actions (or "proposed actions") of Philadelphia's Executive Office that fails to recognize the basic principles of constitutionalism.

    The separation of governmental powers serves to ensure the liberties of every citizen of our Country, Commonwealth and City—being the birth place of those principles.

    We should also scrutinize our local government because it commingles funds specifically allocated for Court Appointed Attorneys into the City's General Fund, without providing accountability for doing so, while simultaneously avoiding explanation as to why those funds always fail to be available at the end of each fiscal year when the demand for them remains constant.

    I am proud to say that I am a member of the Philadelphia County Criminal and Dependency Bars in which I have been granted the privilege of accepting Dependency Court Appointments.

    In these Bars, I have met the most seasoned, experienced, and enlightening practitioners, who are devoted to assisting the public in light of every obstacle which Philadelphia's Executive Office has created over the years.

    Perhaps there is hope for our City's future as this Office leaves and others come.

    Time will only tell, as the question will become whether the existing mismanagement only served to be the basis for the destruction of civil liberties granted to all--not just the poor, indigent or mentally ill parents who are unable to care for their children.

    Jo-Ann Braverman, Esquire

    Mr. Gillison: If you cared to spend one full day observing at dependency court ( a week would be even more informative), you would see a system that is on the verge of imploding. The reason for the chaos that is dependency court is based on multiple factors; 15,000 cases; parents and children with mental health issues, addictions, poverty, homelessness, children on medication at the age of three, etc.etc. Add to this a court system where the same people with these issues are required to wait 4-6 hours for their cases to be reviewed, where the cases are mandated to be reviewed every three months whether needed or not ( truancy case reviewed in July- why?)which only adds to the number of cases heard each day, decreasing time available for each case and increasing time just waiting. The only reason I see for the system not imploding is the dedication , hard working court appointed counsel who labor in this impossible system. It's not due to the judges, most who are in dependency court either because newly elected while waiting until they can be reassigned or those who are placed in dependency as a punishment ( and waiting until they have served their time to go elsewhere). It's not due to the City Solicitors who have anything but the parents interests as an objective. That the city is consulting with the City Solicitor as to court appointed counsel- is very baffling. A major part of my battles as court appointed counsel is having the city comply with basic rules of civil procedure( providing documents, reports prior to hearings- goes a long way to representing our clients). That the city has chosen to only engage "two or three" of those who did submit bids is also troubling. This just seems to be politics as usual. If the city really cared about the actual representation of those most needy- why has no one been consulted who actually represents these clients, day in, day out; without medical or any type of benefits; no sick days; no workers comp; ( though we are expected to go into homes and perform social work duties- in and out of the city); no pensions; no support staff. Perhaps the question should be how can we make the existing system better; how can we support these dedicated, hard working lawyers who have made this impossible system- work? You are going to be very disappointed to discover the problems with the system have nothing to do with the level of competency of current counsel. The current system has only been able to be maintained due to the level of competency and very hard, almost impossible work achieved by court appointed counsel.

    Aaron A. Mixon

    The deputy mayor spouts ill-informed as well as erroneous statements regarding a group of attorneys that he has never witnessed practice their craft. It's synonymous with one proclaiming that all Philadelphia Civil servants have attained such high positions in city government due to cronyism rather than meritorious work or deeds that have actually serviced the citizens of the city that I was born and raised in. We the dependency bar provide A FAR GREATER SERVICE to the public than ANYONE in city government. Daily we are in the trenches vigorously advocating for the indigent, the downtrodden, the oppressed the voiceless, the mentally challenged, the transient the addicted users and others. See I take the practice of law in general and dependency law specifically, very serious. I am a product of the inner city, and I believe in my clients. I recognize that not everyone of them are hopeless because they were born poverty stricken. It is I and my colleagues who have the unenviable task of speaking for those who probably will never get a return letter or phone call from the mayor's office, not to mention a sit down appointment with the mayor himself. So before we ask for improvements at 1801, it would be best to know the constituent base that the mayor is seeking to help, is better represented in family court than they are in city government. Food for thought.

    Harry Levin

    Everett Gillison. Let the floors of City Hall ring loudly and true with the name of the mini mind who set out to put his name in the history books as the one who fixed the system that required no maintenance.

    We know that this reptile has no basis for his comments about our level of representation as juvenile hearings are closed to the public. Just another political hire attempting to justify his bloated salary. How easy it must be to sit on your throne and throw darts at the peasants.

    Learn how to demolish a building without killing people. Attend to the school budget.

    "the time for honoring yourself is at an end, highness."
    -The Gladiator

    Mingo Stroeber, Esquire

    I am not a dependency attorney, although I do handle a few private cases a year. I am, however in the courthouse at 1801 Vine St. most days as I have a significant practice as a juvenile delinquency attorney. Here is what I see when I am in and around the dependency courtrooms--a group of hard-working, experienced attorneys who have devoted their legal careers to giving a voice to the most vulnerable children and families among us. Here they are day in and day out fighting in the trenches for little money, few accolades, still waiting in the halls at 2 pm for their case that was scheduled for 9:30 am to be called into court. They stand up for each other, stand in for each other, and support one another in a variety of ways that are absent among the rest of the Philadelphia Bar in general. In fact, several years ago when the City stopped paying court appointed attorneys for months, labeling us as "non essential vendors", these lawyers, many of whom are women and minorities, came to court every day and did their work, borrowed money from each other, took out loans so their families could survive and kept each other going. They challenge each other, provide forums for case law discussions, and lift each other up if one of them has a personal problem or tragedy.

    I am proud and honored to have many of these attorneys as colleagues and friends. The way that this group has been characterized in the above article is unfounded and unfair.

    William Calandra

    Raise their level of practice? I find this utterly laughable considering the source. I have been a practicing attorney in Philadelphia for 21 years and at 1801 Vine for 16 and have never seen this individual participate in a single Dependency Court hearing. With regard to my abilities as a practititioner, I am confident I could provide this individual who so freely insults seasoned practitioners with a laundry list of judges, past and present, who would attest for the high quality of representation I, along with many of my colleagues provide for Dependent parties. An inexcusably generalized and ignorant remark by a woefully uninformed party.

    Edelina M. Schuman, Esquire

    The hubris and breath-taking ignorance of the current administration reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.” - Dr. Who

    Vince Giusini


    Jennifer Ann Santiago, Esquire

    It is inconceivable that someone who has never set foot in a dependency courtroom would think to utter a word about what goes on in those rooms. What's worse is that the word uttered is sooooooo blatantly disrespectful. We, the dependency bar, handle hundreds of cases that no one wants to handle. We deal with clients that have far more issues than any criminal client. (I should know as I also handle criminal cases). Even with their myriad of issues, we give these clients our best day in and day out. Someone who has no clue what it means to be a dependency attorney ought never utter a word about the work we do. Mr. Gillison is so determined to leave a "legacy" that he is willing to trash the valuable work of 100+ attorneys!!

    Sir, I ask you what have you done to help the dependency clients outside of tell their attorneys that you want them out of a job? Before you speak ill of the work that we - the dependency bar- do, do yourself a favor and handle a case where Mom's kids have been taken because she is out of a job and has just been evicted from her home, and her family will not help her. Do that and then come speak to us. Better yet, handle a case where Mom was a part of the system and raised by foster families due to sexual violence in her biological family and now, she does not know how to be a mom to the child who was conceived as a result of one of her many rapes. TALK TO US THEN!! Until then, you do not get to berate the hard work we do everyday. Your claim to fame was not for representing parents at their worst or representing children when they are the most hopeless. Nope, your claim to fame was representing a cop killer - Solomon Montgomery, a coward who shot Police Office Gary Skerski in cold blood. Therefore, you do not have a clue about what we do, yet you want to belittle us when you really ought to stay in your lane.

    Joseph Capozzoli

    I would second Ms. Agard's comments. My experience has been that the Dependency Bar collectively has exemplified dedication, sacrifice, hard work and patience in zealously advocating for their client's rights.

    Susan Agard

    The attorney's in Dependency Court that I have had the privilege of working with have performed in an exemplatory manner.

    In addition, I take issue with the statement that "they need to raise their level of practice."

    Several of "these" attorneys not only have advanced degrees, beyond a law degree, but substantial litigation backgrounds as well.

    They work for little pay to insure justice for all!

    Karen Deanna Williams, Esquire

    One last point -- it is highly unlikely, improbable even that the "additional support" the Deputy Mayor so sincerely wants to provide "those court-appointed counsel" (i.e. the ones who steer clear of the disaster) will be the substantial, chronically over-due (months after service is rendered) payments the City routinely uses to draw interest on its accounts while court-appointed lawyers go unpaid! And this is what the Deputy Mayor, in his proposed contract, will be offering the "winning" bidder!!

    Karen Deanna Williams, Esquire

    But for the fact that the Deputy Mayor's hasty and ill-conceived plan will inure to the substantial detriment of the indigent and mentally ill, one might be inclined to allow him his hubris. We have no such luxury though. Not only will the fragile population serviced by attorneys who have done this work for many years (the majority of whom are practiced in their craft) be impacted, what about the very real cost to taxpayers? How does the Deputy Mayor propose to pay "the firm" (any willing to risk financial ruin with a fool's gold "one year" contract) and current counsel (or will he be tortiously interfering with our contracts?) and those who will comprise his "hybrids" out of the budget allocated for court appointed counsel for FY2014? More importantly, if that's possible, how will the firm provide all the services and hire all support staff envisioned in the RFP with the remainder funds after current counsel are paid? It seems the Deputy Mayor's idea of "adequate representation" (doesn't he want "exemplary" representation for our clients?!?) is to create an entity that will not only be "presumptively ineffective" but actually ineffective. His willingness, eagerness even to gamble with people's lives, liberties and their families in pursuit of a legacy for the Nutter Administration -- in reforming the court-appointment system -- should give pause to any who would call him a public servant. In truth, the public is being used to secure his place in history. To borrow a favorite phrase of another mayor, "It boggles the entire mind."

    David Rudenstein,Esq.

    Debate on. I would simply hope that tremendous efforts of court appointed counsel through the years would not be overlooked.This has happened all too often in the past several years and all for no reason and to no good end.Civilization should not end at front door of CJC

    Gary S. Server, Esquire

    No, the responsibility for choosing the legal services model rests with the First Judicial District. What kind of arrogance to defy and ignore state law, The Public Defender Act, motivates that comment?

    And does not Mr. Gillison see something inherently unethical about the City and County of Philadelphia and the City's Law Department advising about and choosing the legal services model that litigates in Family Court against the City's Law Department and in Criminal Court against County prosecutors? Perhaps an ethics refresher course would be in order.

    Finally, in that Mr. Gillison has probably never litigated a dependency case and has never been seen by me in 25 years practicing in Dependency Court in any dependency courtroom representing parent or child, how dare he disparage the quality and competency of an entire group of dedicated and hard working attorneys performing with great valor and courage the work that few others will do-representing indigent parents and abused and neglected children.

    Perhaps the one who should be thinking about raising his level of practice is Mr. Gillison. The folly and irresponsibility of his pet project are palpable!

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