Planting Seeds in Juvenile Court

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If you had suggested to me in law school that working with children and families in the juvenile court would be my vocation, and that I would understand the interplay of federal child welfare law, state law and court rules, you would have gotten a puzzled look. But, the seeds for my vocation were planted during my time with Professor Don Duquette in Michigan’s Child Advocacy Clinic, in just its second year.

The clinic was a faint memory After I returned to Arizona, took the bar and packed my bags for Fort Dix to begin active duty in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. It, however, was useful after the Army transferred me to Fort Huachuca and, as the chief of administrative law. I sat on committee of Army and child welfare agency staff to review domestic violence or child abuse allegations on the post. I knew some of the child welfare language, but quickly learned about the military rates of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect.

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After being invited to join Jennings, Strouss & Salmon and moving to Phoenix, I reached out to the then-Arizona Black Lawyers Association (later the Hayzel B. Daniels Bar Association and now the Arizona Black Bar). I learned about Judge Daniels, his history with Fort Huachuca, through his father, a 10th Cavalry trooper, and his experience at teaching at a post school, one that I attended in seventh grade when my dad, a NCO, served on Ft. Huachuca. More importantly, I learned from Clovis Campbell, a legislator and publisher of the Arizona Informant, and others, about Judge Daniels’ role in the Phoenix lawsuit that desegregated the local schools before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

His legacy, as well as the leadership of Lonnie Williams, Cecil Patterson and others, was a reminder help comes in many different ways.

His legacy, as well as the leadership of Lonnie Williams, Cecil Patterson and others, was a reminder help comes in many different ways. Jennings provided me with nearly a 10-year education into a world that I could not find growing up in the military. More importantly, my partners continually helped improve my client skills, writing skills, and trial skills. Jennings also encouraged and valued participation in bar activities and pro bono work; it too valued giving back to the legal and larger community, and has a long history of providing those opportunities.

Governor Rose Mofford gave me the opportunity for public service. After a year on a civil calendar and four on criminal, Judge Kim Rose “asked me” to go to the Juvenile Court. My first call After that conversation was to Don Duquette and I asked, “What do I need to do to learn how to do the job?” He recommended joining the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and sent me one of its publications for new judges. The seed that was planted in me in 1977 was beginning to blossom.

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The Juvenile Court was wonderfully different. It focuses on resolving a delinquency or dependency case, by trying to find ways to help children and families to try to be successful. I tried to plant seeds, as all juvenile court judges try, and hope they blossom. And when we get a copy of good grades or some award, a high school graduation announcement, a basic graduation picture, or learning that a reunified family or one that had adopted a child were doing well, we’re hopeful that the blossoms will grow.

After my time on the juvenile court and then family court, Governor Janet Napolitano appointed me to the Arizona Court of Appeals. I was lucky enough to serve with Judge Patterson, though for only a month before he retired. I followed him 13 years later, After working with great colleagues, and having a beer with Chief Justice John Roberts in the atrium of the Supreme Court Building.

Although retired, I still stay connected to the ABB and try to help the next generation of African-American lawyers find their way to the bench.

Although retired, I still stay connected to the ABB and try to help the next generation of African-American lawyers find their way to the bench. And I still pursue my vocation – to work with the juvenile court as works to handle its dependency cases, while trying to fully understanding the newest federal law, the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018, along with its opportunities for the courts and community to continue to make a positive difference for children, families and the community.

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