Role of Attorneys ad Litem
I must respectfully disagree with Sarah J. Campbell and Robin L. Rosenberg, authors of “The Use of Next Friends to Seek Appointment of Counsel for Dependent Children Who are Incapable or Unable to Request Appointment of Counsel” (May), and their suggestion that “next friends” be appointed statewide for dependent children who may be in need of legal representation. Having worked as a senior GAL attorney in the dependency court in Brevard County for the past nine and a half years, I have seen literally hundreds of attorneys ad litem (AAL) appointed to meet this need.
In this jurisdiction, the parents, DCF workers, the guardian ad litem, and/or their attorneys regularly present ora tenus or written motions for the appointment of an AAL for the child. AALs are appointed from the legal aid society or from a registry of local pro bono attorneys. The court has always given serious consideration to these requests, whether the child is a baby or someone aging out of the dependency system. I have never seen a case here where such a request was not argued and given proper consideration by all parties and the court.
What we don’t need is another participant in the dependency system duplicating what, in my experience, have been very honest concerns offered by the respective attorneys, following consultation with their clients. And what we don’t need is another lawyer involved in proceedings where the child’s legal interests are not adverse to their best interests and already properly represented by the other parties’ attorneys.
I would hesitate to follow the authors’ recommendations based upon, apparently, one isolated case and a sweeping denunciation of our concern and care for the legal rights of children.
Harry Vickers, Melbourne
“But For” Causation
In the July/August edition, Darren Schwartz explains in “Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc.: Time to Apply the ‘But For’ Burden of Proof to FCRA Discrimination Claims” why the Supreme Court’s holding that a plaintiff in an ADEA case must prove “but for” causation should be applied to all employment discrimination claims under the FCRA. At least within the geographical scope of the Third District Court of Appeal, I believe that trial courts are, in fact, bound to apply that standard. In Sunbeam Television Corp. v. Mitzel, 83 So. 3d 865 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012), the court applied the Supreme Court’s holding to an age discrimination claim under the FCRA. As Mr. Schwartz points out, the statutory text of the FCRA uses a single causation standard for all protected classes; the standard for an age discrimination case is the same as for race, gender, etc. Accordingly, I believe that Sunbeam Television stands for the proposition that the “but for” standard applies to all employment discrimination claims under the FCRA in the Third District. One might also argue that until there is a conflicting decision from another district court of appeal or the Florida Supreme Court, all trial courts in the state are bound to follow this analysis.
Shane T. Muñoz, Tampa