Guardian ad Litem’s “Defending Best Interests Project” on fast track for lawyers to help children pro bono

The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program is pleased to announce its latest pro bono initiative, the “Defending Best Interests Project” which will allow more Florida attorneys to use their skills to defend the best interests of dependent children when challenged on appeal.

In dependency court, it is a fundamental principle that the child’s best interests are paramount.

“The ‘Defending Best Interests Project’ represents some of the most important work pro bono attorneys can do – allowing the appellate courts to hear the voices of children in the dependency system,” said state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton and a long-time champion of pro bono service.

The Pro Bono Committee of The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section will partner with the GAL program on this project.  According to Committee Chairman, Joe Eagleton of the Tampa-based firm Brannock & Humphries, it is sometimes a challenge for attorneys to find time to volunteer their services on a consistent basis.

“The Appellate Practice Section is thrilled to partner with GAL on this project, which offers our members a concrete opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child,” Eagleton said.  “The ‘Defending Best Interests Project’ checks so many of the boxes our members tell us they are looking for to get more involved in pro bono work – a time-limited commitment, an easily-digestible record, institutional support and the opportunity to feel good about themselves to boot.”

Although the project has just launched, it is quickly gaining momentum, with Vincent Trimarco of the Trimarco Law Office in Winter Haven winning its first appellate victory on May 31st.

“As a practicing criminal defense attorney, this might be the first time in almost 15 years I’ve been happy to see a PCA from the DCA,” Trimarco said. “Thank you, everyone, for trusting me with this opportunity. I’m glad to give a child permanency and a fighting chance.”

In addition to Trimarco, nearly two dozen attorneys have already committed to write briefs. “I feel like a kid on Christmas,” said Beth Roland, a shareholder at Friedman & Friedman in Lake Mary. “This opportunity to volunteer my time and experience is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!”

Leading the initiative is Thomasina Moore, an attorney with more than 20 years of experience in complex litigation and appeals.

“If you are an attorney who wants to use your legal expertise to give a voice to a child, these are the children who need you the most,” Moore said. “Whether you are a practicing attorney, a retired judge or a law student, you will find rewarding service through the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program’s Defending Best Interests Project”

There are more than 30,000 abused, abandoned and neglected children under the jurisdiction of Florida’s juvenile dependency courts that need a voice.

However you choose to give a voice to Florida’s most vulnerable children, the GAL Program will support you. Attorneys accepting pro bono appointments within this project will have unlimited access to our extensive online training database, detailed practice aids and support through the GAL’s skilled appellate attorneys and executive leadership.