The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program recognized 21 attorneys for “outstanding advocacy” for children with special needs in dependency court.
The honorees, one from each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits, are being recognized as the top attorneys representing special-needs children in their circuits, along with one appeals attorney statewide.
“These attorneys are deeply committed to ensuring that children with special needs who have endured hardships have a strong voice in court,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, Senate sponsor of the bill creating the Special Needs Registry in 2014.
Under the bill, the children they represent must have a developmental disability, be victims of human trafficking, prescribed a psychotropic medication they refuse to take, or living in a skilled nursing home or residential treatment center.
“These children are so vulnerable,” said GAL General Counsel Dennis Moore. “But the attorneys on the Special Needs Registry are passionate about making sure they have every chance at a permanent, loving family and the care they deserve.”
GAL also tapped one honoree as the statewide winner for special-needs advocacy: Meshon Rawls of the Eighth Circuit, which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties. She was cited for her months-long battle to help a 14-year-old resident in a Department of Juvenile Justice facility attend his mother’s funeral.
Rawls is board certified in juvenile law. Of the 21 honorees, eight have earned the distinction of board certification by The Florida Bar in their areas of expertise.
Grainne O’Sullivan, statewide director of Children’s Legal Services for the Florida Department of Children and Families, said she was impressed that so many of the attorneys being honored were board certified.
“These hard working attorneys are committed to advocating for a very vulnerable population of children in our care to ensure their best interests are served,” she said.
Moore noted that the GAL program was exploring every avenue to expand training and other supports for registry attorneys. The honored attorneys will get all scholarships to next year’s Guardian ad Litem Disability Conference.
The honorees include:
• Patricia Wright of the First Circuit.
• Kirsten Dunton of the Second Circuit.
• Dana Taylor of the Third Circuit.
• K.C. Tusher of the Fourth Circuit.
• Jack Moring of the Fifth Circuit.
• Heather Madigan of the Sixth Circuit.
• Allison McCabe of the Seventh Circuit.
• Meshon Rawls, statewide honoree, of the Eighth Circuit.
• Craig McCarthy of the Ninth Circuit.
• Elizabeth P. Davis of the 10th Circuit.
• Bernard Perlmutter of the 11th Circuit.
• Peggy Schurfranz of the 12th Circuit.
• Scott Robbins of the 13th Circuit.
• Alia Adhal of the 14th Circuit.
• Amy Genet of the 15th Circuit.
• Tom Woods of the 16th Circuit.
• Matthew Mandelkorn of the 17th Circuit.
• Scarlett Davidson of the 18th Circuit.
• Crystal Marsh of the 19th Circuit.
• Scot Goldberg of the 20th Circuit.
• Shannon McLin Carlyle, appeals honoree.
To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or to become a volunteer visit www.GuardianadLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1GAL.