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In re Rose Lee Ann L.

September 03, 1999

IN RE ROSE LEE ANN L., A MINOR
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER,
v.
LISA ANN RAMOS AND MELVIN LEWIS, RESPONDENTS (D. JEAN ORTEGA-PIRON, GUARDIANSHIP) ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, APPELLEE, PATRICK T. MURPHY, COOK COUNTY PUBLIC GUARDIAN, APPELLANT)).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Buckley

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable Lynn Kawamoto, Judge Presiding.

This is an appeal from the circuit court of Cook County, child protection division. The Cook County State's Attorney filed a petition for adjudication of wardship of Rose Lee Ann L. (Rose), minor daughter of Lisa Ramos and Melvin Lewis, who are themselves wards of the State. The Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy (public guardian Murphy or Murphy) had previously been appointed attorney and guardian ad litem for Lisa and Melvin in their individual cases. During the wardship proceedings regarding Rose, public guardian Murphy was appointed attorney for Lisa and Melvin in their capacity as Rose's parents. Public guardian Murphy moved to withdraw as their attorney, claiming he was unclear of his role as attorney for parents in abuse and neglect proceedings. The court denied his motion and thereafter entered a final Dispositional order giving guardianship of Rose to D. Jean Ortega-Piron, guardianship administrator of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Public guardian Murphy now appeals from the order denying his motion to withdraw and raises the following issues:

(1) whether the trial court erred in instructing him that he was obligated to play a traditional, adversarial role as counsel, aggressively attempting to keep out evidence that the parent may present a risk of serious bodily injury to his or her child, in child protection proceedings which are statutorily required to be non-adversarial; and (2) whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw. Appellee's response briefs were filed by: James K. Leven, court-appointed attorney for Lisa and Melvin on appeal; Jan E. Hughes, assistant Attorney General, on behalf of DCFS; Ilene L. Bloom of Winston & Strawn, on behalf of Rose; and Loyola ChildLaw Center as amicus curiae in support of Rose.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

On May 6, 1997, the Cook County State's Attorney filed a petition for adjudication of wardship of three-month-old Rose, minor daughter of Lisa and Melvin, alleging that she was neglected due to a lack of care pursuant to section 2-3(1)(a) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (the Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(a) (West 1992)), in that Lisa had left Rose alone for at least half an hour. The petition was later amended to add the allegation that Rose was neglected due to the existence of an injurious environment pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 1992)), in that Lisa was involved in a physical altercation on or about April 22, 1997, with a young man while Rose was present. The State's Attorney also filed a motion for an order appointing the guardianship administrator of DCFS, D. Jean Ortega-Piron, the temporary custodian of the minor.

Lisa and Melvin were both 19 years old at Rose's birth and minor wards of the State. Public guardian Murphy had been appointed to represent Lisa and Melvin in their individual cases as abused and neglected children. At the temporary custody hearing for Rose on May 6, 1997, the trial court also appointed public guardian Murphy as attorney for Lisa and Melvin in the wardship action in their capacity as Rose's parents. Charles Sheets of Winston & Strawn was appointed attorney and guardian ad litem for Rose.

Prior to any evidence being heard at the temporary custody hearing, public guardian Murphy asked the court whether, as attorney for the parents, he was supposed to "play a traditional role in an attempt to vigorously represent [his] clients irrespective of the facts and to vigorously cross-examine and keep certain facts out, or do [does he] play a more general role and try to advocate for what is in the best interest of the little girl." The trial Judge advised Murphy that "the traditional role as attorney for mother and father is the role that you were appointed to." The temporary custody hearing then continued.

At the hearing, Lisa, Melvin, and Lisa's caseworker, Susan Cullen, testified. At the Conclusion of the hearing, the court determined that there was an urgent and immediate necessity to remove Rose from both parents. The court placed Rose under the temporary custody of DCFS and ordered that the parents have only supervised visitation. The court also denied public guardian Murphy's request for a short date for certification of a question for appeal, but directed him to submit a written motion.

On May 14, 1997, public guardian Murphy filed a motion requesting that the court certify the following three questions for immediate appeal under Supreme Court Rule 308 (134 Ill. 2d R. 308):

A. Does an attorney representing a parent in a child protection proceeding have an obligation to disclose to the court information that demonstrates that the parent may present a risk of serious bodily harm to the parent's defenseless child?

B.If the attorney obtaines information that his client may present a risk of serious bodily harm to the client's child, in his role as attorney and guardian ad litem for the parent in the parent's case as an abused and neglected child, does the attorney have an obligation to attempt to keep this information out of evidence in the case of the parent's child?

C.Does the role of the parent's attorney change: (1) after the adjudication of the parent's child as an abused or neglected child; and (2) after the parent's child has been removed from the parent's guardianship?

DCFS filed objections to the motion, arguing that it was premature and that public guardian Murphy was seeking an advisory opinion on his ethical obligations to his clients. The law firm of Winston & Strawn, by attorney Ilene Bloom, also objected to the Rule 308 certification request.

On June 25, 1997, following a hearing on his motion, *fn1 Murphy revised and resubmitted his request for certification. His revised request asked that the following question be certified for appeal: "Does an attorney representing a parent in a child protection proceeding have an obligation to disclose to the court information she received other than by conversations with her client but which demonstrates that the ...


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