RESOLUTION REGARDING COMPENSATION OF COUNSEL IN DEPENDENCY PROCEEDINGS

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association is committed to improving the quality of representation in courts that serve children, youth and families; and,

WHEREAS, the American Bar Association has established, as a priority, the effective representation of children and families in accordance with Standards of Practice adopted in February, 1996, including a standard providing that the court assure that a child's attorney receive adequate and timely compensation throughout the term of appointment that reflects the complexity of the case and includes both in-court and out-of-court preparation, participation in case reviews and post-dispositional hearings, and involvement in appeals; and,

WHEREAS, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York has found that the payment of inadequate fees to appointed counsel in dependency cases constitutes a violation of due process (In re Sharwline Nicholson, et al., 203 F. Supp. 153 (E.D.N.Y. 2002)); and,

WHEREAS, the ever-important need for quality representation of children and families in dependency matters has grown in recent years, in part because of reduced family access to resources through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and strict time limitations imposed by the Adoption and Safe Families Act, implemented through the Juvenile Act in 1999; and,

WHEREAS, the representation of children and families involved in dependency proceedings requires special skills, training, sensitivity, and increased expenditure of time and resources pursuant to Act 18 of 2000, regarding the role of the guardian ad litem in dependency proceedings, and to Philadelphia Rules of Court R. 1702 through 1705, regarding standards of practice in Dependency Court; and,

WHEREAS, Federal District Courts pay appointed lawyers in non-capital criminal cases an hourly wage of $90 per hour; Philadelphia pays an hourly wage of $60 for in-court service in homicide appeals and Post Conviction Relief Act cases; the Eastern District of New York has ordered an hourly wage of $90 for appointed lawyers in dependency court (In re Nicholson, supra, order stayed pending appeal); and 54 Pennsylvania counties pay lawyers in dependency court by the hour at an average rate of approximately $50 per hour with some counties paying $75 per hour; and,

WHEREAS, in response to the funding crisis in dependency proceedings, but limited by funding provided by the City of Philadelphia, the First Judicial District Administrative Governing Board has adopted an increase in Counsel Fees, related payment to court attendance, and eliminated the two- year cap on compensation by providing payments for two review hearings per year after the second year of the case; and,

WHEREAS, based upon the actual experience of attorneys who represent parents and children in dependency court on a regular basis, the new fee structure, effective July 1, 2002, provides, at best, an hourly rate of just over $29.41 per hour for a simple case lasting two years, but as little as $4.80 per hour for a complex case lasting three years;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports implementation of a system of appointment and compensation of court-appointed private counsel for parties to dependency and adoption proceedings which:

1. Compensates attorneys at fair and reasonable hourly rate for representation throughout the full term of the appointment and at levels which reflect the numbers of sibling children involved in and the complexity of the case, and includes both in-court service and out-of-court preparation and involvement in appeals, at an appropriate rate that allows counsel to provide adequate and effective assistance to children and families;

2. Limits eligible lawyers to those who are qualified to represent children and families in accordance with local standards of practice, and which representation at a minimum requires: appearance at, preparation for, and participation in all court hearings and conferences; attendance by the attorney or a qualified representative at Family Service Plan meetings and other service planning sessions; and fieldwork for investigations, client interviews, and service provider contacts;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor will take all necessary action to seek implementation of this Resolution, including but not limited to, seeking a meeting or meetings with the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia or his representatives to express the positions stated herein, and then communicating the result of those meetings with the Mayor or his representatives to the Board of Governors, the President Judge, Administrative Judge of Family Court and the Administrative Governing Board of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: September 26, 2002