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Colorado Supreme Court Denies Abused and Neglected Children Meaningful Legal Representation

Colorado Supreme Court Denies Abused and Neglected Children Meaningful Legal Representation

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Published by Circuit Media

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Published by: Circuit Media on Oct 25, 2011
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07/10/2013

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 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mary Beth SearlesChildren’s Law Center303-302-9910msearles@childlawcenter.org 
Colorado Supreme Court Denies Abused and Neglected Children Meaningful LegalRepresentation
(Denver, CO) October 24, 2011 Today the Colorado Supreme Court released anopinion that denies children in the Colorado child protection system effective legalrepresentation by depriving them of the opportunity to have confidential conversationswith the attorneys appointed to protect their best interests.We are deeply disappointed by this ruling,” said Stephanie Villafuerte, executivedirector of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, a local nonprofit organizationthat provides legal advocacy for abused and neglected children. “The ColoradoSupreme Court has decided that abused children are not entitled to one of the mostbasic benefits of legal representation, which is having a trusting, confidentialrelationship with an attorney.”The underlying case, People v. Gabriesheski, involved a man charged criminally withabusing his step-daughter. While that case was pending, the department of humanservices filed a case in juvenile court, and an attorney was appointed as guardian adlitem (GAL) to represent the child victim. During the criminal case, the prosecutorsattempted to call the GAL to testify about her private conversations with the victim.Both lower courts held that the conversations between the victim and her GAL wereprotected by attorney-client privilege.Today the Colorado Supreme Court reversed, ruling that conversations betweenchildren in the child protection system and their GALs are not confidential.In a strongly worded dissent, Colorado Supreme Court Justices Alex J. Martinez andMichael L. Bender concluded that this ruling will have “devastating effects on the abilityof GALs to fully represent the best interests of children.”Jeff Koy, the director of litigation of the Children’s Law Center, who has served as acourt-appointed GAL for more than 12 years, argued in this case that conversationsbetween GALs and children should be protected.

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