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Tanya Derby and State Guardian ad Litem Program Receive First Judicial District Amicus Curiae Award

Posted: Friday, August 14, 2020

The First Judicial District awarded its tenth annual Amicus Curiae Award to Tanya Derby and the State Guardian ad Litem Program on August 14, 2020.  The Amicus Curiae Award, meaning Friend of the Court, is an annual recognition of persons who have provided exceptional service, leadership or other contributions to assist the courts in the First Judicial District discharge their constitutional responsibility for the administration of justice. 
Ms. Derby has worked on behalf of clients in juvenile, child protection and criminal court with the First Judicial District Public Defender’s Office.  She advocated for clients’ rights first as a paralegal from 1995 to 2005, and then as an attorney from 2005 to 2020.  Additionally, she volunteered on the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative - Eliminating Racial Disparities Committee from 2006 - 2020, and also as the children’s attorney with the Family Dependency Treatment Court from 2010 to 2020.
First District Chief Judge Kathryn Messerich noted, “Ms. Derby generously volunteered her time, legal skills and compassion while representing children in Family Dependency Treatment Court and other juvenile matters.  Her advocacy insured that children’s voices were always heard.”
The State Guardian ad Litem Board was established by legislation in 2010 to administer a statewide, independent guardian ad litem program to advocate for the best interest of children in juvenile and family courts.  The Program Administrator, who reports to the board, supervises the program managers from the ten judicial districts.  Each judicial district program is configured to service the needs of the judicial district. 
When the court is making decisions that will affect a child's future, the child needs an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child.  While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, the guardian ad litem is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interests of the child.  
Guardians ad Litem conduct interviews and observe children and significant people in their lives. They review social service, medical, school, psychological and criminal records and reports. They attend meetings with the other professionals involved with the children and their families. They outline options and make written and oral recommendations in court regarding the short and long term best interests of the children.  It is important to remember that it is not the guardians ad litem responsibility to make decisions about a child's future, but rather to make recommendations to the court that enable the court to make the best possible decisions.
“The First Judicial District is grateful for the guardians’ dedication to the safety and well-being of children, said Chief Judge Messerich.  “All of the First District Judges know how valuable the guardian’s input is and appreciate how they serve as the child’s advocate in child protection and family law cases.”
Past recipients of the Amicus Curiae Award are: Liz Reppe, Dana McKenzie, Merlyn Meinerts, Mary Freyberg, the law firm of Lindquist & Vennum, Sharon Freiling, Karissa Richardson, Dan Beeson, Wayne Jagow, Lloyd Moosbrugger, Bob Morris, Jerome Wickert, Mary Stapleton, Chuck Brill, Manual Roman, Molly Trieschman, Fredrikson & Byron Law Firm, Bridget McCauley Nason, and Dakota County Bar Association.