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[ATG] Attorney General to assume appellate representation for DCS
Start Date: 9/13/2012Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 9/13/2012End Time: 11:59 PM
Entry Description

INDIANAPOLIS – After reviewing the agreement where the Indiana Department of Child Services has been represented in appellate court by its own lawyers, Attorney General Greg Zoeller today announced that the AG’s Office instead will handle appellate cases for DCS. Deputy attorneys general will represent DCS in the Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Supreme Court, while DCS attorneys will continue to represent the agency in trial court.


Zoeller on March 12 had said his office would review the representation begun in 2005 that had allowed DCS to retain attorneys of its choice in court cases, rather than using deputy attorneys general from the AG’s Office. That review now is complete and Zoeller’s office now will assume the appellate cases only, though Zoeller plans to discuss with legislators his office’s willingness to provide enhanced legal services to DCS during his upcoming testimony to a legislative summer study committee reviewing child protection matters.

“When created by executive order as a separate state agency in 2005, DCS was best positioned to represent the interests of children in court cases, so the limited legal authorization allowed it to hire its own lawyers rather than using deputy attorneys general who normally serve as state government’s lawyers. But because appellate cases are highly complex and can result in new legal precedent, it now is necessary that the state government’s law firm – the Attorney General’s Office – harmonize the legal positions of DCS and other state agencies in appellate court, to ensure they are consistent with each other and with our state’s legal policy,” Zoeller said.


The Attorney General has sole authorization under Indiana Code 4-6-5-3 to permit agencies to utilize in-house counsel and staff attorneys as well as outside counsel when appropriate.


Though DCS attorneys still will represent the agency in trial court, if cases are appealed then the Attorney General’s Office will represent DCS and the interests of children in appellate court. Zoeller said this realignment is closer to what the 2005 limited authorization had intended. No other approval is necessary to revise the authorization; the change is triggered administratively through a revised consent letter and will become effective as soon as transitional details are finalized, but no later than the end of this year.


Handling approximately 3,000 civil cases and 1,600 criminal appeals cases per year, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office currently has 144 deputy attorneys general. The DCS appellate caseload volume is approximately 150 appeals cases. The Attorney General’s Office will work with DCS over the next few weeks on the logistics of staffing to ensure that the change to AG management supervision of the cases is fiscally neutral and structured to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.


In announcing the assumption of DCS appellate work, Zoeller said he plans to testify at upcoming hearings of the two legislative summer study committees reviewing subjects relating to DCS and child protection issues. Zoeller plans to offer additional involvement by the Attorney General’s Office in providing independent legal services to DCS. He wants to gather input from legislators on whether an enhanced AG’s Office role would meet any of their goals for DCS – and if so, what type of budget and resources would be needed, noting some changes could be made legislatively, others administratively.


“Protecting children is of the highest priority; and the deputy attorneys general in my office already represent other state agencies in most other types of legal matters. We provide objective and independent counsel and we stand by the Legislature in providing sound legal representation in various types of legal actions, if asked. We appreciate the heart-rending decisions that our DCS colleagues must make every day, and we will discuss further with legislators how we might be of service to the State and children in pursuing new approaches,” Zoeller said.


The two study committees are:


  • the Commission on Mental Health and Addiction, which is assigned to review the initiation of certain Child In Need of Services (CHINS) petitions. Attorney General Zoeller will testify at its hearing Monday, September 17.
  • the Interim Study Committee on the Department of Child Services, which is reviewing various matters relating to the agency. Zoeller asked to testify at that committee’s hearing October 11.


NOTE: A letter formally outlining the new consent arrangement, reserving appellate representation of DCS to the Attorney Genera’s Office and trial representation of the agency to DCS, is attached.


Attachments For This Entry:
    > AG's Office consent letter outlining appellate representation of DCS
Entry Type:
Press Release
Entry Category:
  • Announcements
  • Category:
  • Family & Health
  • Government
  • Residents
  • Agency Name
    Attorney General

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