Whether you or your child receive services at home or through the school, you trust that your service provider will be caring and competent, and that the agency or school district will deliver those services consistently and fairly. In many cases, your life revolves around these services. As an individual with special needs, you may not be able to continue to live at home or take care of your basic needs without assistance. As a family member, you rely on these services for your loved one while you are at work, or to help your child overcome obstacles to a good education and a future filled with possibilities.
A good attorney goes into every case preparing to litigate, reviewing the law, and gathering facts every step of the way. But just as it doesn’t make sense for a doctor to perform surgery for a common cold, an attorney should not use litigation as the first response to every concern. Sometimes, problems are the result of a simple misunderstanding or the error of an overburdened employee. At other times, an attorney can help you best as an advocate – explaining your concerns, pointing out the advantages to your approach, or even seeking to change an unjust law or regulation.
Informal resolution is always preferred to litigation to preserve the relationship with the people who will be helping you or your child for years to come. When that door closes, however, your attorney needs to be ready and willing to take your cause to the appropriate forum. Any client is better served by an advocate who will present the case assertively, but with professionalism and common courtesy. This does not mean that the attorney cannot be passionate about the cause; only that passion for the cause should not be confused with emotional reactions toward the people involved.
I have been a member of the Florida Bar since 1980 after graduating with high honors from Florida State University College of Law. Since then, I have worked as an attorney in private practice, state government, and legal services and have experience in civil litigation, administrative and appellate law.
My advocacy for persons with disabilities began as a legal services attorney, where I led a statewide advocacy effort to defend children and adults with developmental disabilities from significant reductions in Medicaid services. That effort involved litigation in multiple forums, including administrative hearings, rule challenges, state court appeals and federal lawsuits. During the multi-year project, I felt connected to this area of advocacy and to the people it impacts in a way I had not experienced before. I started private practice with the goal of continuing this important work, expanding to also include the area of special education.
My husband, Jim, is my Administrative Assistant. He is a former attorney and currently an Episcopal priest and certified family law mediator. All of our three children are now adults, and they are the source of my passion for child advocacy as well as my empathy for the joys and frustrations of childhood education.
I currently serve on the Board of Directors for Helping Hands, a nonprofit organization providing free, volunteer-based medical care to the homeless. I have also volunteered as a guardian ad litem, tutored children with emotional disorders and learning disabilities, served on a school advisory board, and been “pet-facilitated therapist” at a state psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents.