March 2, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tina Hester, Executive Director, 512-450-4899
Fifth Circuit Affirms Janes’ Rights to Meet with Attorneys over ORR Blockade
Over the last year, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has repeatedly refused to allow pregnant minors in its custody to access abortion. ORR has now escalated its disregard for the law to blocking a court-appointed guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem from meeting with their client. To deny a young person access to her attorneys is a gross violation of her legal rights.
Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the rule of law and remanded a case back to the district court to allow a “Jane” to meet with her guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem and for the judge to supervise finding Jane’s true intent with regard to her pregnancy. This remarkable step of making a federal case out of a judicial bypass action occurred because of ORR’s stubborn interference with this child welfare case. By law, judicial bypass cases are sealed, confidential, and private, but ORR’s actions have exposed this case and violated Jane’s privacy.
ORR interfered with the attorney-client relationship by apparently having Jane questioned about her meeting with counsel, then claiming she no longer wants to talk to her counsel and denying the ad litems access — going as far as sending security guards to block them from even entering the facility keeping Jane. “This is like the jailer telling a criminal defense lawyer the client doesn’t want help anymore,” said Susan Hays, JDP’s legal director and appellate counsel in the case. “A lawyer can’t take a third-party’s word for what her client wants. Lawyers must meet with our clients directly and privately.”
In late January, Jane’s Due Process was contacted about an unaccompanied minor who expressed a desire for an abortion and referred the matter to Rochelle and Myles Garza of Garza & Garza Law PLLC. These attorneys are uniquely qualified to represent Jane due to their experience both representing unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings and handling judicial bypass cases, where a teen seeks permission from a judge to obtain an abortion without parental consent.
“JDP and the referral attorneys with whom we work follow strict ethical standards to protect the Janes’ privacy and dignity. Interviewing and representing a minor who is a trauma victim or in a crisis situation is a delicate matter,” said Tina Hester, executive director of Jane’s Due Process.
Rather than respect the law and Jane’s human rights, ORR has attacked the Garzas in court and in the press. “The Trump Administration’s attempts to vilify the Garzas was a precursor to the dissenting opinion’s similar attempt and politicized rhetoric. As the majority rightly stated, such tactics are ‘unwarranted’ and ‘beyond the pale,’” said Hays. “Rather than politicizing and publishing private facts, we should all be focused on Jane’s safety and well-being.”
“Our referral attorneys are all committed to support their clients no matter what outcome they ultimately choose for their pregnancy. The Garzas have done just that: offered support and counsel without judgment or shaming — as any decent attorney and compassionate person would,” said Hays.
The Fifth Circuit’s decision from 3/1/2018 is available here.