The San Francisco Superior Court has a duty to ensure that parents facing allegations of abuse or neglect of their minor children, and minor children who may have been abused or neglected, receive the highest quality representation possible from court-appointed dependency counsel. Since the early 1970s, the Court has collaborated closely with the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) to carry out this duty.
Through the Dependency Representation Program (DRP), attorneys are appointed by the Court from panels administered by BASF’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS). The members of these panels must have demonstrated experience with parents, guardians and minors, and are carefully screened by BASF and the Superior Court. Since 2007, BASF’s Dependency Representation Program (DRP) has provided comprehensive oversight to the administration and billing associated with this program.
In addition to making available highly qualified counsel to be present each day in court, DRP also reviews and processes all bills from attorneys, investigators, experts, social workers and ancillary service providers. In so doing, DRP provides sound monitoring of appointed counsel, investigative, social worker and other ancillary costs, assisting the Court in ensuring that bills are reasonable and in compliance with the billing policies and procedures set out in the San Francisco Unified Family Court Dependency Representation Program Policies and Procedures Manual.
Court Appointed Counsel in Juvenile Dependency Proceedings:
All indigent parties in Juvenile Dependency proceedings are represented by members of the Juvenile Dependency panel.
- The Parent Representation Panel: All indigent parents and alleged parents are appointed counsel at their first court appearance.
- The Minor Representation Panel: All children ages 0 – 17 years are appointed counsel at the first court appearance; non-minor dependents maintain their court-appointed counsel throughout their status.
To join or renew your court appointment program panel membership, please visit the LRIS Membership page. Court appointment panel applications can be found under Step 2 on that page. Members of the Court Appointment Programs are also eligible for private referrals at no additional cost.
If you have questions or if you are a new lawyer, or looking to learn a new practice area, please contact the Director of Court Programs for information about working with one of our seasoned attorney panel members. Law students interested in externships or internships are always welcome as well.
The Application Process: Applications are submitted to BASF for initial review and then forwarded to the court for judicial approval. The application process includes a confidential peer reference review as well. BASF and the Superior Court recognize that often qualified attorneys do not meet each and every requirement for a particular panel and therefore, applicants are encouraged to advise BASF by letter of experience which is substantially equivalent to that required by the application pursuant to Rule 6 of the LRIS Rules.
We firmly believe that learning how to advocate on behalf of parents is an essential skill in the practice of Juvenile Dependency Law. For those who have not represented minors in dependency proceedings, we require that attorneys become qualified to represent parents in San Francisco proceedings and spend at least six months representing only parents prior to applying the minor’s panel.
If an attorney is qualified to represent both parents and minors, the attorney can maintain membership on both panels concurrently. Many of our attorneys do this. We believe that gaining empathy from performing both roles expands the level of knowledge, advocacy and empathy needed to perform at the highest level.
Child Welfare Law Specialization: The National Association of Counsel for Children maintains the certification program for the legal specialization of Child Welfare Law Specialists. This certification is accredited by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization. Certification is not required for appointment in juvenile dependency cases. However, many of San Francisco’s court-appointed dependency lawyers maintain this certification and are well-respected statewide for the consistent level of zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients.