Outrageous Fortune

Private lawyers in Maricopa County child-dependency cases are soaking us for unbelievable bucks

The lawyers are scurrying inside the Juvenile Court building in Mesa on a recent morning like shoppers on a last-minute run.

They move from the appointment counter toward their courtrooms, lugging briefcases and working BlackBerries, faces scrunched up in multitasking concentration.

Small groups are milling outside the eight courtrooms, waiting for the start of delinquency and dependency hearings to which they're connected, most often as participants.

Fred Harper
Juvenile dependency and deliquency proceedings happen by the hour at the Mesa courthouse.
Laura Segall
Juvenile dependency and deliquency proceedings happen by the hour at the Mesa courthouse.
Juevenile attorney Janelle McEachern: "I don't have to speak to every person face to face to understand their story."
Laura Segall
Juevenile attorney Janelle McEachern: "I don't have to speak to every person face to face to understand their story."
Superior Court Judge Ron Reinstein gives high marks to the county’s juvenile bar.
Superior Court Judge Ron Reinstein gives high marks to the county’s juvenile bar.

The delinquency hearings concern children under age 18 who are accused of breaking the law (though kids charged with serious crimes can be transferred under Arizona law to adult court).

Dependency court focuses on children reportedly abused or neglected by their parents or guardians to the extent that state child-protection officials or others have recommended legal intervention.

Those cases typically involve parents who run the gamut of the simply pathetic (druggies who don't know up from down) to the malevolent, and children badly in need of a fresh start, with or without their birth parents.

One of the lawyers, a middle-aged woman in a flowing purple dress, bellows the name of her client.

"That's me," says a diminutive woman with stringy blond hair, rising from her hard, plastic chair to shake her new attorney's hand.

"Hi," the lawyer says. "I didn't know if you were going to make it. I've been trying to call you. Good. Let's go talk somewhere real quick."

Minutes later, a bailiff enters the hall from a courtroom and calls the next case.

The attorney in the purple dress and her scruffy client step into court, soon followed by another attorney and a glaring, heavily tattooed man who removes a ball cap that says, perhaps ironically, "World's Greatest Dad."

Had their hearing concerned a juvenile delinquent, anyone from the public could have observed the proceedings.

But this is a dependency case, an entirely different animal in Arizona courthouses when it comes to openness.

As in Las Vegas, what goes on inside those courtrooms usually stays there.

Seventeen states in the past decade opened their dependency hearings to the public, shining a light on an important process that long has operated in a shroud of secrecy.

But dependency cases in Arizona are closed to the public unless the parents, guardians or the sitting judge elect to open them. Dependency courts in Arizona remain a secret society that exists amid one of our most traditionally wide-open institutions — the county courthouse.

The man and the woman reappear in the lobby about 10 minutes after they had entered the Mesa courtroom. Neither looks pleased.

The woman huddles with her new lawyer. The tattooed man sticks his ball cap back on his head and quickly heads to the elevator.

The two lawyers who represented their respective clients at the short hearing each will bill Maricopa County's Office of Contract Counsel $1,000 for their services.

Almost without exception, these and the other attorneys who work dependency cases under contract with the county will get paid in full, whether they do the bare minimum of work or go the extra yard for their clients — children or parents.

That is the going rate for private attorneys during the first year of a dependency court case. In many instances, a judge also will appoint another attorney as guardian ad litem (GAL) to provide additional support to one of the parties, usually the child.

That's another $1,000 for the first year of work.

Attorneys usually have to appear in court every 60 days during that first year, for status hearings that rarely last more than a few minutes.

During the second year and every year after, attorneys for the parents and the GAL may bill $250 annually (the child's attorney gets to bill $400) if a case continues, which it usually does for at least a few years.

For a child, becoming a ward of the state means a trip into the netherworld of foster care, reunification with and separation from their parents, adoption, and variations on those themes.

At first blush, the money — $1,000 here, $250 there — may not sound like much.

But a New Times examination of financial reports and other public records shows that juvenile dependencies are the source of the county's most lucrative public-law franchise for a small group of private attorneys.

These days, most of the public discussion about Maricopa County's legal world has concerned the death penalty, and how an overwhelmed criminal-justice system is threatening to collapse under the weight of 149 pending capital cases.

County Attorney Andrew Thomas and others have suggested that the criminal-defense bar has been making the big bucks on the backs of county taxpayers, all the while stalling the death penalty proceedings as long as possible.

Remarkably, though, the highest-paid dependency lawyers, with rare exception, have been making more money than peers in private practice who litigate death-penalty cases under their county contracts.

The undisputed champion of dependency lawyers for calendar year 2006 was Chandler attorney Patricia O'Connor, who collected $385,305 for handling hundreds of juvenile dependency and delinquency cases.

O'Connor collected more from Maricopa County last year than Bob Storrs, Dan Raynak and Herman Alcantar, three private defense lawyers who work death-penalty cases for the county, earned among them in 2006.

Only one criminal-defense attorney under contract with the county collected more than $200,000 in 2006, according to billings provided to New Times: Phoenix lawyer Nathaniel Carr, who was paid $354,800.

Another financial comparison: A Child Protective Services caseworker and a lawyer from the Attorney General's Office assigned to work dependency cases make less than $100,000 a year — combined.

Superior Court judges make about $135,000 a year, which is slightly more than the annual salaries of the county's most experienced homicide prosecutors and public defenders.

"It's presumptively an issue when a private attorney working as an independent contractor makes more money than the highest-paid prosecutor or defender," says Peter Ozanne, assistant county manager for criminal justice. "That, among other things, including the huge caseloads that some of these dependency attorneys are carrying, is going to stop."

As of now, however, the not-so-secret avenue to success as a juvenile dependency lawyer in Maricopa County is quantity, not quality.

Someone inside the legal system recently dubbed the busiest (and, not coincidentally, the biggest moneymakers) of the county's dependency lawyers "case whores," an ugly phrase that bears analysis.

Obviously, it suggests that attorneys are taking on every client who comes their way because the money's so good. And the public record confirms the nasty sentiment.

Attorney O'Connor was able to earn almost $400,000 in 2006 and is on track for an equally lucrative 2007 because of her sheer number of clients.

A sole practitioner, O'Connor took on exactly 500 new juvenile cases last year, according to a spreadsheet provided to New Times by the Office of Contract Counsel.

Those cases came on top of the 789 cases that the county claims she had pending at the start of 2006.

According to the spreadsheet, O'Connor started this year with 860 cases still pending.

"You've got to be kidding me," one Superior Court judge said in a typical response when told of O'Connor's earnings and caseload. "There aren't enough hours in a day, are there?"

But O'Connor says her records (collated, she says, by her computer-expert husband) tell a different story. She says she's working 468 cases, including 316 dependencies, which she admits is a full load, but not nearly what the county has in its computer.

"I know that it's a lot of cases," she says, "but I don't get bar complaints, or complaints from the judges or, most important to me, my clients. I hope that fact comes into this discussion."

By all accounts, O'Connor is a real pro at dependency work, a team player known for taking on cases at a moment's notice and who, indeed, does get high marks for her work from the judges contacted by New Times.

"Ms. O'Connor is strong advocate for her clients, and she always does what's needed, " says Judge Louis Araneta, who works exclusively on juvenile cases out of the Mesa courthouse. "There have been several instances when I have needed to appoint an attorney right at that moment, so I tell my bailiff to go out in the lobby and see if there are any OCAC (Office of Contract Counsel) lawyers out there. I don't play favorites, but Patty has a large caseload and needs to be at the courthouse a lot, so she is out there a lot and so she has gotten many of those appointments."

O'Connor employs two full-time social workers and other assistants to keep up with her intense schedule, which means an average seven-day, 80-hour work week, she says.

But by virtue of her position at the top of the dependency court money tree, O'Connor has become a lightning rod in a part of the legal system that previously has operated under cover.

"At this point, I'm not looking into anything fraudulent that may be going on with any specific attorney," says the county's Peter Ozanne, "but there definitely has been a systemic problem, both with our inability, because of the lack of staffing, to assure quality control, and with the judges who continue to assign a handful of people case after case after case."

Rich Scherb, a Phoenix attorney also with a juvenile law practice, notes, "It becomes a huge, huge burden if you're carrying dozens of dependency cases, much less hundreds, like a lot of my colleagues. Once you get beyond a certain number, it just becomes impossible to do your job correctly. I can't believe that the powers-that-be in this county have let them get away it."

Scherb himself is not doing so badly as a contract juvenile delinquency and dependency attorney in neighboring Pinal County. Records from that county show it paid him $183,033 in 2006.

Business in Maricopa County also continues to boom for the dependency bar's biggest guns. In the first three months of this year, the county paid Patricia O'Connor a little more than $100,000.

"I didn't make up the pay scale, and I don't beg for cases," she tells New Times. "I just say, 'You got a case, I'll do it.' Call me on Christmas Day or any other holiday, I'll be there. My goal [with] this work is to maybe save a life or two, and to maybe give some kids a chance. It's what I'm about.

"So go right ahead and put the target on me for making the most money. It may be hard to believe, but I'm not in this for the money . . . I live and breathe this stuff."

The relative handful of Valley attorneys who devote the bulk of their practice to juvenile dependency law rarely make it into the news.

Dependency lawyers long have embraced the adage that defines their little slice of the legal system: out of sight, out of mind.

The closed nature of dependency proceedings had made that easier for the attorneys to lay low. (Supporters of keeping dependency hearings closed usually cite privacy concerns, and fears of "re-victimizing" the children involved. However, positive examples, such as Minnesota, which opened all of its juvenile hearings in 2002, suggest that such fears are unfounded.)

According to Mark Kennedy, the outgoing director of the Office of Contract Counsel, the extent of the large paydays to dependency lawyers began to reveal itself a few years ago.

"This is something that we have been grappling with for a while," says Kennedy, who has been in charge of overseeing the dependency and delinquency contracts, among other duties. "I am not unhappy that the general public is finally going to know about it."

Kennedy says the county is determined to put a stop to what he calls "the juvenile dependency gravy train.

"I must admit that I fell into a trap. Until I became aware of what was going on with these lawyers, including the money they're making, I assumed that giving an attorney the benefit of the doubt when he or she was working on behalf of kids was the right thing to do," he says.

"Shame on me. Many of these people essentially have created annuities for themselves because dependencies can stay open forever, or at least until a child turns 18. And let's say Mom has a new child, which isn't at all unusual. Mom's lawyer will represent her in the new case or cases, year after year after year, and will continue to get paid for it."

The blunt-spoken bureaucrat, who is an attorney and former FBI agent, likens the dependency bar "to a bunch of monks from a smallish order who perform their own 'Gregorian chants,' their own unique legal language."

But fancy courtroom language doesn't make it death penalty work, Kennedy says, adding that "it sure as hell doesn't mean that these people should be reeling in the money like they have been."

Though the stakes in dependency cases are high, the script learned by judges, Child Protective Services caseworkers, lawyers, and clients at hearings is repeated practically verbatim in every case.

Unfortunately for many laypeople, the terms used in dependency court often are arcane — Latin words abound, as do acronyms and incomprehensible titles of proceedings (such as the Initial Permanency Planning Hearing).

Judges and court commissioners assigned to handle dependencies often place children into foster care (sometimes for extended periods), order family reunification services (by law, judges must take pains to try to "reunify" families, even when the parents clearly are incapable of caring for themselves), return kids to their parents' custody, or, after a long process, allow adoptions to proceed and order the termination of parental rights.

In dependency court, as elsewhere in Maricopa County's sprawling legal system, any litigant surely can catch a lousy break, a raw deal. Maybe a down-on-her-luck mom undeservedly will lose custody of her children for a stretch, or a child will be placed in a rotten foster-care setting.

But generally speaking, parents who make continued good-faith efforts to improve their lot — mentally, physically, emotionally, economically — usually will be reunited with their child or children.

(Between April and September 2006, according to a report filed by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, just 90 severance cases were completed in Maricopa County. All but one of those ended with termination of parental rights, with the exception being a case that DES withdrew before trial.)

Janelle McEachern (pronounced mick-can), another of the county's most prominent (translation: very busy, very well-paid) dependency attorneys, concedes that her work "isn't rocket science, and it does take more in the way of organizational skills than probably anything else. But that doesn't mean that a lawyer who is experienced in this part of the law isn't more valuable to a client and to the system by knowing how to streamline and keep things moving along than a greenhorn."

That dependency law isn't "rocket science" is one of the few points about which McEachern and Mark Kennedy at the Office of Contract Counsel seem to agree.

"The language and the process you see inside dependency court may be unknown to most people, including other lawyers who don't do that kind of work," says Kennedy, "but it's pretty basic when you cut through everything. I know firsthand that these cases generally aren't that complicated."

By that, Kennedy is referring to his recent work on about 20 cases as a dependency attorney in Gila County, whose seat is in Globe. He says he took on the extra work "so I could see how these kinds of cases really work, and what a lawyer has to do to serve a client well and maybe get a decent outcome that's right for everyone."

Kennedy says he's offended by the first-time "meet-and-greets" of attorneys and their clients, similar to the one at the Mesa courthouse described at the start of this story.

"If you're getting paid a couple of hundred of thousand of dollars a year or whatever," he says, "wouldn't you at least show up somewhere to see your clients ahead of time? I'm talking about the most rudimentary principles of honest lawyering. Where is the conscience of these people?"

McEachern bristles at Kennedy's remarks, telling New Times, "The term 'meet-and-greet' sounds terrible, but it's reality, the nature of the game sometimes, such as when a client decides to show up for court for the first time halfway through a case."

Surprisingly, McEachern says, "I don't have to speak to every person face to face to understand their story. I am a history person, and I do appellate work, and I understand how to read cold copy and get something from it. Some of these kids have everyone constantly in their face — therapists, teachers, caseworkers — and they lose track of which one's which.

"It's not the lawyer who should be going out and visiting the clients. It should be that lawyer's social worker, if she has one, which I do. I'm not a psychologist, I'm a lawyer, and I know which cases need my priorities."

McEachern says it's not unusual for her clients (the ones who aren't behind bars) to skip appointments with her, fail to return her phone calls, miss court hearings and make a healthy attorney-client relationship impossible.

Fair enough.

But Mark Kennedy says the county has added provisions to new juvenile contracts going into effect July 1 that will compel private attorneys to avow in writing that they have visited with clients before going to court.

"Some of the lawyers in the dependency bar do excellent, conscientious work," he says. "But others just go through the motions, just try to move their cases through by going along with whatever CPS tells the judge — kind of hydroplaning through hearing after hearing. I say you owe it to your client to at least get to know what they are about before you get to court. Some of our attorneys literally don't have the time to do that."

But Ronald Reinstein, another judge on the dependency beat in downtown Phoenix, says of the lawyers who appear in his court, "All I ask is of them is to be prepared, to know what their case is about and to represent their clients to the best of their abilities, and that's what I get most of the time."

Reinstein speaks well of the work performed by many dependency attorneys who regularly appear before him, such as Christine Mulleneaux (who was paid $220,890 in 2006), Christopher Theut ($124,736), the husband and wife team of Dan and Pamela Wiens Saint ($298,600 between the couple) and others.

One of the most respected members of the county judiciary, Reinstein adds a cautionary note: "The numbers of cases that some of these attorneys apparently have been juggling is really troubling. I can't imagine that it's healthy for anyone involved."

What it has been is healthy for many of their bank accounts.

Reinstein says another court official familiar with the situation recently suggested, apparently only somewhat in jest, that the judge should apply for a county contract when he retires in a few months because that's where the money has been.

Reinstein says (wry smile in place) he isn't leaning in that direction yet.

Mark Kennedy says he's confident that other changes in the upcoming juvenile contracts, including a limit on cases (a maximum of 260 per attorney), some reduction of pay for the dependency attorneys and other cost-cutting measures will have an immediate and positive effect.

Needless to say, the dependency bar is none too pleased by the upcoming changes.

"I think what happened is that people at the Board of Supervisors and in Mark Kennedy's office just got together as a tribal group and decided to vote us off the island," says Janelle McEachern. "They think we're spoiled little brats, and they're giving us a big spanking."

Says Kennedy, "No doubt there will be growing pains as we step into what I think is going to be a seismic change in how we do business with these lawyers. But something's got to give, period, and we're taking steps to make sure it does."

Not counting Patricia O'Connor, 37 private lawyers specializing in juvenile cases were paid more than $100,000 last year by Maricopa County.

Seven juvenile dependency attorneys, including O'Connor, collected more than $200,000 in 2006. Right behind O'Connor were Janelle McEachern and Jeffrey Zurbriggen, who were paid $277,992 and $266,925, respectively.

The county's Peter Ozanne, who was executive director of the Office of Public Defense Services in Portland, Oregon, before moving to Phoenix last October, says the financial situation for dependency attorneys in Oregon is vastly different than it is here.

The money that Maricopa County's dependency attorneys have been making, compared with others in the system, apparently has been giving even some of them pause.

"It is skewed," Janelle McEachern says, "and if I was a death penalty attorney or a judge, I'd say, 'Wait a minute' too. They have families to support and offices to run. But I'm not the one who disperses the money. I don't know, maybe all of the other parts of the system should lobby to get more money."

But Patricia O'Connor sees the assault on the amount of money she's been making as somewhat hypocritical.

"How many lawyers out there would be willing to hold a brand new baby who's going through meth withdrawals and is having seizures?" says the former prosecutor and public defender. "Or would be willing to spend hours with a woman with an IQ of 58 to try to keep her on track? Or try to figure out what to do with a child who's been molested repeatedly by a sibling or two?

"If you do it right, this work isn't for everyone. CPS doesn't know what it's doing a lot of the time, with the high turnover and the lack of continuity of services. That's where a good dependency lawyer can step in and micro-manage. I'm a workaholic, and I'd like Mark Kennedy or anyone else to walk a mile in my shoes.

"Bottom line, the only people who are truly going to get hurt by everything getting stirred up about the money we've been making are those that the system already hurts — the children who aren't going to get the representation they deserve."

But with all the cases that a small group of dependency lawyers continue to handle in Maricopa County can children and their parents possibly be getting adequate representation?

Assistant County Manager Peter Ozanne thinks not.

"It's hard to imagine being able to do the job with 500 cases, or 800, or whatever," he says. "I think that's common sense. I also think that we in the county have to open up a conversation with the judges who keep appointing the same people to these dependency cases, and with everyone else who works on these cases. Things have to change, and they're going to."

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i am a grandmother fighting cps for over a year now to return my grandchildren to my care! my family torn apart, my grandchildren given to strangers, who themselves have allegations against them, yet i can find NO ONE to help me! i had physical custody of two of the children at the time of cps involvement because i too was concerned over my dughters poor choices. my crime, according to cps was that i had lost my job and had no income? it didn't matter that i had been out of work since april and it was now november? it didn't matter that the children had food, shelter, clothing, medical, education and love? they claimed as soon as my unemployment started and i got other housing rather than paying weekly, i could regain custody? LIE, in march i did just that but than they decided unemployment was not enough income? they have conveniently left me out of care plan so that the court does not recognize my motions filed? they have over time cut out any visitation i was allowed to have? this just a few of the illegal acts by this government dept. i am not a lawyer but i can read and there is statutes and their own guidelines that they DO NOT follow? today, i once again am going to file a motion to have the children returned to my care. i thankfully have returned to work, i'm a nurse, and have moved into a three bedroom, two bath home. as of this date cps claims that it could take up to at least three weeks before a home study can be done to see if they would approve me? i have stressed how important it could be to return them now, since i am on christmas break, as they are and could give all my time devoted to re-bonding with them! i have tried to get help and or advice from different agencies and even recently contacted a lawyer, to no avail? if there is anyone who is willing to help me FIGHT this institution that is so obviously broken please contact me at jroberts138@aol.com and help me end this nightmare!!

heartbroken in az

Ewa Boxer
Ewa Boxer

Patricia O'Connor makes a lot of money because she is the best of the best. I worked on some of her cases, and innocent people were set free and got their children back because of her dedication, determination and knowledge. If I had a case against CPS, I would definitely hire her. She does a great job and knows what she is doing. In my opinion, she is worth every penny she makes.




This same problem has just been addressed in California by a special commission. The attorneys do not care. Many of them also handle adoptions which make the child disappear forever for mucho bucks. It's all about the money. See article:State panel calls for change to fix dependency court system - PANEL SEEKS PROTECTIONS FOR PARENTS, FOSTER KIDSArticle Launched: 03/15/2008By Karen de S�Mercury NewsContact Karen de S�t kdesa@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5781http://www.mercurynews.com/pol...Confirming the Mercury News findings, the commission reported that children and parents afforded court-appointed lawyers "do not meet their attorneys until moments before their hearings." The typical time for hearings is as short as 10 minutes, a far cry from the 30- to 60-minute hearings recommended. "If we truly are intent on doing better by children and families, we can't ignore the courts and the legal process," said Myriam Krinsky, a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission and a state courts consultant. "The commission's recommendations acknowledge that we have to do business differently, and that children and families will continue to pay the price if we don't start to turn the corner."

The recommendations in the commission's 20-page report aim at reducing the number of children in foster care, a system believed to poorly serve the children it is designed to protect. Key recommendations include: � Removing children from their homes should be a last resort, and children temporarily separated from parents should be returned home by the courts as quickly as possible. If the state does take custody, children in long-term foster care should receive financial and other support through age 21, rather than ending foster care at age 18 as is the current practice. � Local trial courts should prioritize the often-shunned dependency courts. All dependency cases should be heard by judges, not the court-appointed referees and commissioners who now hear most cases. � All court clients - including children - should have an opportunity to participate in their hearings; with the exception of cases in Los Angeles County, children are routinely absent. Clients should get help with rides to court, and hearings should be set at specific times, so that school and work conflicts for parents can be accommodated.

Attorneys' role To improve the quality of representation in dependency court, the commission calls for attorneys to meet with clients "before the initial hearing and in advance of all subsequent hearings," a basic communication now lacking in most courtrooms. The commission also wants higher pay and lowered caseloads for lawyers who now carry as many as 600 cases in some regions. This is hundreds more cases than competent attorneys can reasonably manage, experts say.


If your reading this article you are not alone. Please check by from time to time in the comments for updates!


William J Crimmins II

back when he was keeping drunks on the road in Tempe he was notorious unethical as the following from azbar.org still reports:"a) prior disciplinary offenses, (i) substantial experience in the practice of law and (j) indifference to making restitution."

Given this he was eventually drummed out to Payson/Yuma, where clients couldn't reach him, where the state would never seek it's money back, and where he finally caught the eye of an also 'imperfect' but fundamentally outclassing Kessler.

Kessler mentors kids, but that didn't stop him from mocking the conduct of 'Jr.' to the point of causing a crisis much greater then the article published here.

It is as though someone got to Kessler, as though he didnt' want to join the 'crimins's' in Hell town preferring to be downstairs from the Supremes a little while longer at least."

Why has no one objected to the following language ......

Well I'm trying to object!

Stay tuned.

It's too urgent perhaps.

If you have this lawyer.... do more then bring up "run for the hills" on your verizon phone! (even though it's free there, do much more!)

censured for conduct in violation of his duties and obligations as a lawyer. The Discipline Commission and the Supreme Court approved the Discipline by Consent for censure and restitution. Mr. Crimmins was also ordered to pay costs and expenses incurred by the State Bar of $999.60 with interest at the legal rate from the date of the judgment. Mr. Crimmins represented a client in a DUI criminal proceeding and a Department of Motor Vehicles administrative proceeding. Mr. Crimmins accepted a $1,000 retainer and then failed to adequately represent the client by failing to interview two potential witnesses. In addition, Mr. Crimmins failed to promptly return a portion of the client�s retainer. Although Mr. Crimmins agreed to return $400, he immediately returned only $100 and he delayed refunding the remaining $300. There were three aggravating factors found pursuant to the ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, section 9.22: (a) prior disciplinary offenses, (i) substantial experience in the practice of law and (j) indifference to making restitution. There were three mitigating factors found pursuant to Section 9.32 of the ABA Standards: (b) absence of dishonest or selfish motive, (e) full and free disclosure to disciplinary board or cooperative attitude toward proceeding, and (g) character or reputation. Mr. Crimmins� conduct violated Rule 42, Ariz.R.S.Ct., particularly, ER 1.1, ER 1.3, ER 1.4, ER 1.16(d), ER 8.4(d). "


The salient question in this saga is: What QUALITY of representation are these clients receiving? I believe that an HONEST canvass of the clientele represented in D&N cases would quickly reveal that these attorneys barely make contact with the client, rarely know the case issues, and nearly always advise them to just admit guilt and agree to a punitive, often inappropriate and nearly always irrelevant treatment plan offered by DES. THEN, the OTHER money suckers come out of the woodwork to get THEIR share of the pie.. the mental health workers, substance abuse counselors and monitors, the parent aides, the visitation supervision specialists, the medical doctors, the parenting class teachers, and the list is literally infinite. Richard Wexler said once that at least 25 people derive their considerable payroll checks directly from the child protection INDUSTRY. That is a fact. So, um... show me the incentive for even one of those people to come clean and admit that this system is about money, not about saving kids and their families? Show me the incentives for any one of them to do the RIGHT thing instead of the expedient thing. As some wise person once said, "If you want to understand a problem, follow the money." AMEN. The AZ DES system is ALL about money, and appearances. It's a sham. When will the people of Arizona finally have enough of DES stealing and abusing their children? When will the taxpayers tire of funding this nightmare and demand some QUALITY for their sizeable investment? Rep. Hershberger wants the Sec of State and the Atty Gen to go after Robin Scoins for voicing her opinions, challenging the money flow, shining light on the truth. I didn't hear one word about the CONTENT of her reports to the committees, not one word about being concerned that the taxpayers are being bilked out of millions. Is Arizona asleep??? CMK


A conversation with Terry Goddard, 04.22.2007 by The Arizona Daily Star


" STAR: Can we talk about Child Protective Services for a minute? There's been a lot of activity in the Legislature, a lot of talk about what, if anything, needs to be done about CPS.

The Legislature may want to conduct closed hearings on CPS because most members of the Legislature don't really understand what CPS does.GODDARD: I did an opinion. I am afraid it didn't get any attention because it was issued the Friday before Easter.

We did a precomprehensive, which goes to the Brandon Williams (the 5-year-old autistic boy who died March 21) cases, which is the obligation of health-care providers and others in the community under current state law to report any incident of abuse.

It was a reply to a legislator. Clearly there was failure of a number of different agencies to report what could have been, and actually was, evidence of abuse, and they didn't do it.

STAR: What did they ask you to do?

GODDARD: I would refer you to the letter. It's on our Web site at azag.gov under "opinions."

It does try to articulate what I think many people have misunderstood in the past, which is exactly what the reporting obligations are. They're very extensive under state law. Basically, if you had seen young Brandon with bandages, that should have been reported.

I can't argue with somebody who wants to raise the Legislature's understanding of what CPS does and what pressures they're under. If the only question is getting a Legislature more up to speed, I would certainly support it. I think that's a great idea.

STAR: Is there anybody who measures the success of CPS?

GODDARD: I tend to doubt it because the standard of success keeps changing.

I've heard the governor talk entirely in terms of child welfare. Some legislators talk entirely of family unification. And CPS is constantly in a pingpong match between those two separate poles.

Right now � this has been my experience � they're leaning toward family unification as the primary obligation. And child welfare is there, but as a secondary objective.

We represent CPS in every case of dependency and severance. Right now, there are 7,000 in the process that I'm aware of. The AG's office has won 99 percent of the cases for both severance and dependency.

That is not normal in a contested legal situation. I mean, there's a lawyer on the other side of every one of these cases, usually state-appointed but nonetheless a competent lawyer is handing the interest of the parents, the family.

We should not be winning 99 percent of anything.

We're good. We have some very dedicated attorneys; they're not that good. I would be happy with a 70 percent or 80 percent win rate because then it would mean that some of the close calls were coming through the system.

STAR: So you're saying that's because you're only getting the worst cases?

GODDARD: We get the worst of the worst."

================================================================EndGame's opinion...

it's obvious Arizona's public defenders are nothing more than public pretenders...




Man, you've got some angry people writing in on this one, Mr. Rubin. Must have struck a nerve. I suspect that those writing in are the lawyers or their friends. If they would read the story, I don't think you trashed the lawyers for being bad lawyers, just for having too many cases and making an awful lot of money. But, having worked at the Mesa courthouse for a long time, I can tell you that lawyers don't like anyone saying ANYTHING about them, especially when it's even a little bit critical. I've been reading your stories for a long time, and keep up the good work.


The $1000 contract counsel are paid for the first year�s work would seem like good money to a person who has absolutely no concept of what attorneys typically charge. The vast majority of attorneys have minimum retainer fees that far exceed $1000. As for the $250 for each subsequent year, I find that amount laughable. You should know that many attorneys charge $250 an hour!

The real story here is why are there so many cases in Juvenile Court in Maricopa County. Why do parents think it is okay to lock their children in cages? Or starve them to death? Or smoke meth or crack while they are pregnant, or give birth to infant drug addicts? Or whore their 6-year-old daughter out for drug money?

There are several points from your article that deserve further review. Apparently you found no individual who said Patricia O�Connor does not represent her clients well. Quite the contrary, Judge Araneta said she is a strong advocate for her clients and does what is needed. Are you implying these clients deserve any less? Furthermore, you compare her to attorneys in the Attorney General�s office and CPS caseworkers. According to your very own article, Ms. O�Connor employs at least 4 individuals. This means her income must pay their salaries, in addition to all of the overhead expenses for her office, health insurance, taxes, maintaining her bar accreditation, malpractice insurance, and more. Assistant Attorney Generals do not have these expenses, and neither do CPS caseworkers. They do not work 7 days a week year round as Ms. O�Connor does either. It would appear that your article is merely attacking these attorneys for doing their jobs.

There is no gravy train here, and shame on you for saying so. As for your thinly veiled jab by calling Ms. O�Connor a case whore, once again you are misguided. Does it not concern you there are this many cases for contract counsel to be appointed to? It is seriously disturbing to me. The better question is why has the Office of Contract Counsel not hired more attorneys to divide the workload? In my mind that explains the backlash from Mark Kennedy, it seems that he is deflecting responsibility. Has it occurred to you these few attorneys are part of a very select group that are willing to take these contracts and continue on them? Has it occurred to you the contract does not pay enough in comparison to the work so other attorneys simply will not take the cases? Your article was repugnant, and seriously misguided. Shame on you Paul Rubin.

John Timothy Miller
John Timothy Miller

This was a very good article, shedding light into what for most of us is a dim and murky aspect of contemporary society, and the author is to be congratulated for the thorough examination and presentation of this issue. Yet I would add a comment about the portrayal of these contract attorneys as money grubbers who take little interest in the process beyond the pay they receive. I knew Patricia O'Connor years ago and we have drifted apart, to my regret, but the Patricia O'Connor I knew was one of the most dedicated and caring attorneys I have ever met. The woman lives and breathes her work, caring deeply about the situations of these neglected children, and I have known her to wipe a quiet tear from her eyes in an unguarded moment as she reflects upon what she was able to do for these kids, and what she was not able to do. In my opinion the woman is a saint, the Mother Theresa of guardianship proceedings in this valley, and though the countless children she has saved through her work will not be remembered, the work she has done for all of us as a society certainly should be remembered. She deserves every dime of the pay she receives for her representation. She is there for those kids when nobody else will stand up. And for that she should be applauded.

Helen Dumar
Helen Dumar

My daughter lost both her children to this process and I was amazed at how unorthodox everyone involved was. No one really cared about what needed to be done or what was best for my grandchildren. I complied with every thing CPS and the court wanted and still was discounted as a placement because of false accusations made by my x-mother in law 15-20 years ago. I hired a private attorney to the tune of $4000.00, made many complaints and fought for visitation. They have these little old ladies who have nothing better to do in their retirement than hang out and give input on dependency case, THE CASA. These women are worthless! They are out of touch with society and modern day problems young parents face daily, they make their opinons about the parents without spending time with them and mostly on the basis of what the placement or case manager states. This whole system needs revamped desparatly, someone should step in and help keep our ARIZONA FAMILIES TOGETHER. Someone should also remind everyone involved that these kids have lots of family and need to have contact with grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins.


This was an eye-opening story, and I hope that you write more about the juvenile system because we have had our own experience there with a son that was nothing like we expected. The judge was good and our son's lawyer was okay, but the whole thing was like a blur with all the fancy language and so on.Thank you.

walt Plunkett
walt Plunkett

OK OK, I will admit my first comment was on the "flip" side, but it is true==CPS always wins initial dependency hearings--the author should have included this in his facts....but in truth the ballooning of money collected by people who do CPS stuff is only the result of the Govenor's "take the child and run" edict given to CPS which has resulted in a near 40% increase in dependency cases since she took office. Kudos to the author for disclosing that all this is kept secret as no one connected with the CPS Foster Care Panic want light shed on their incompetency---an incompetency that even CPS admits in its latest reports. I say more articles like this one and LET THE LIGHT SHINE IN.

walt Plunkett
walt Plunkett

I have a great way to save money here---simply do away with dependency hearings as CPS ALWAYS WINS as they have such brilliant minds and learned jurists to make the final decisions.


Regarding the "Dependancy Cases,Maricopa County", I personally, am not an Attorney at Law, but on the other hand, I have hands on experiance with Juvenile Dependancy and Criminal Juvenile cases (court appointed cases), as far as the statement made"going through the motions", this is so true in some (alot)of court appointed cases, no contact w/your client, meet and greet, then on the other hand, as in Ms. O'Connor, who I believe is NOT over paid, she lives and breathes these cases, why do I say this?, the Attorney I was employed with, started out as a Public Defender (under-paid)and went out on her own, me tagging along. We (she) specialized in Juvenile cases, not choice, but that was what she was GREAT at, yes her case load was heavy, (county contract) yes she and I both worked really late and very early, lots of hours, lots of frustration, lack of time in a day, and under paid but, Ms. DAL made it possible for us to make a difference, the point of Dependancy is someone needs help. If the Attorney is saving a child from hunger,pain or filth, PAY the Attorney, If the effort is there, pay the Attorney. We as in the State of Arizona, need to look out for our Future. I did alot of foot work, paperwork, telephone calls and shed alot of tears, all for our clients and it's not like there is a line of Attorney's trying to take these cases, I am willing to bet, Ms O'Connor has done a few Pro-Bono cases also, my boss did, so leave the Attorney willing to take the "not so easy or not the best cases alone and be happy to pay the Dependancy Attorney's. Our Future has alot to do with who and how our children are raised. I'm a tax payer too. Try and go over some of those cases, or better yet, read the entire report, then ask if the money really matters to a point, try and look or listen, these cases need help and willing to help is better than being appointed a Public Defender who does not want the case. Thank you Ms DAL and Thank Ms O'Connor for all the effort.

Stacy Fahrenthold
Stacy Fahrenthold

I am none of the above...crack head/meth,whatever, I never abused or neglected my son at ALL! MY 2 yr. Old is the love of my word, but I continue to HAVE to play these horrible heart breaking games being played by Cps- South mountain cent. Phx., I have done ALL my SERVICES ,AND MIND YOU I have supported my son fully while he has been in Foster care where who knows what's happening to him, they haven't even implied in the least my son will be returned! I have went well over there expectations they " say" I need to do, terros ,tasc, Dv classes, counseling, etc.. It's been 9 mo now , my sons been held hostage and for no good reason, why you ask ? Because I didn't leave his abusive father fast enough for them , well since all my families in TX. I DIDN'T have an easy way out. But since have established myself ,My son and I are close as cam be, but since my child was snatched by the GRAVY TRAIN ,I have had 4 Different lawyers, now tell me I have been represented correct! These lawyers who ate supposed to help me don't know me from the real mehh whore mom, but hey I just sit in his room everyday a cry until I can't anymore then go to work,counseling,tasc, terros, and whatever clever money making schemes this Cps worker SHARON DORAME. Comes up with, my son shouldn't at all away from me but hey, u say ms. Jamie , the system works huh?

Stacy Fahrenthold
Stacy Fahrenthold

It be great if there was a lawyer reading my story who could help me, I don't have 4,000 for a lawyer. But I have fought and fought and continue but to no avail, but Cps says there plan is reunification.....It's all lies though and they have proved it a couple times, help.

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