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June 24, 2016

Jason Scavone
Desert Companion

In popular culture, lawyers have been having a moment for, like, 60 years now, ever since the TV version of Perry Mason started badgering criminals into ’fessing up on the stand. 

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In popular culture, lawyers have been having a moment for, like, 60 years now, ever since the TV version of Perry Mason started badgering criminals into ’fessing up on the stand. That image hasn’t changed much, whether you’re talking about the era of Matlock, Law & Order or Drop Dead Diva: the passionate, devoted, tirelessly driven attorney. The reality behind the image isn’t too far off — particularly in the case of these lawyers who take that devotion to the next level, putting their courtroom skills in service of foster children, immigrants and the underprivileged.

There was a time in this state when children who were in the foster care system were just cargo. Judges and caregivers and attorneys made decisions for kids with no input from them. It led to things like foster children getting dumped off in places like psychiatric hospitals for up to a year.

That changed in 1999 with the creation of the Children’s Attorneys Project, which provides counsel and acts as the legal voice for kids in the system. In 2005, Janice Wolf left her practice in Hawaii and joined the project when it had only five lawyers.