Why the change?
Over the past several years, OCR has observed that the quantity and complexity of appeals arising out of D&N cases has increased dramatically, and that the stakes are higher than ever before. OCR determined that this changing environment warranted a comprehensive assessment of its existing appellate program. In response to its findings, OCR determined that changes to the appellate program were necessary to ensure attorneys participating in appeals on behalf of children and youth were able to effectively advocate in this highly complex, specialized and quickly-evolving area of the law.
What were the choices?
After reviewing the current appellate program, OCR identified three options for moving forward with changes to its appellate program:
- requiring all appeals be handled by OCR-designated appellate attorneys (similar to what ORPC does);
- requiring all trial court GALs/CFY handle their own appeals with no substitutions by appellate specialists; or
- some version of the current hybrid system which allows trial court GALs/CFY to choose whether to participate in an appeal.
After considering each option thoroughly, OCR decided to continue its hybrid system but with increased structure and support for those GALs/CFY who choose to participate in appeals. Beginning July 2023, OCR will allow trial court GALs/CFY to work on appeals arising from their trial court cases, but only if those attorneys become certified as Level 1 Appellate Attorneys (L1). Those trial court GALs/CFY who do not become L1 certified will be required to secure appellate counsel from OCR’s Appellate & Litigation Support Team (ALST) for any appeals arising out of their D&N cases.
What else is changing?
Existing members of the ALST will need to become certified as Level 2 Appellate Attorneys (L2) by July 2023. OCR will add members to the ALST as the need arises in order to maintain a small group of high- level appellate specialists whose primary practice area is GAL/CFY appeals. When a new ALST member is needed, OCR will call for applications and conduct a rigorous analysis of the applicants to determine who should be L2 certified and added to the ALST roster.
How will the changes happen?
L1: To become L1 certified, trial court GALs/CFY will need to complete an appellate-specific training module. The training module will be available online in January 2023 and must be completed by June 2023. Further, attorneys seeking L1 certification will need to complete a set of questions on their FY 2023 OCR Application indicating that they are willing to comply with the additional requirements for certification.
L2: Existing members of the ALST will also need to complete the online appellate specific-training module and complete certification questions on their FY 2023 OCR Application.
What’s the timeline?
PRESENT to JULY 2023: APPELLATE PROGRAM CONTINUES AS-IS.
January 2023: Appellate Training Module opens.
- OCR Application/Verification/Renewal period.
- Trial court GALs/CFY may apply for L1 Certification.
- Members of the ALST may apply for L2 Certification.
June 2023: Appellate Training Module closes.
July 2023: NEW APPELLATE PROGRAM LAUNCHES.
September 2023: Rolling applications for L1 Certification opens.
AS NEEDED: Applications for L2 Certification/ALST opens.
Contact OCR’s litigation and appellate strategies staff member Anna Ulrich at email@example.com.