A Judge's Perspective

Judges Endorse Efforts of CASA Volunteers

J. Dean Lewis Hon. J. Dean Lewis (retired)

2010 National CASA President’s Award recipient
Editor, Judges Page newsletter

 A judge reached out to the community for help over thirty years ago and the CASA movement was born.

The commitment of the CASA/GAL volunteers in my court and the difference their advocacy meant to the children inspired me. It led me to volunteer with National CASA to provide outreach to judges across the country through The Judges' Page online newsletter. I applaud the work of the CASA/GAL volunteers and all who support their advocacy on behalf of our most vulnerable children.

Judges have a keen awareness that dependency courts cannot address all of the needs of abused and neglected children and their families alone. They know that a successful CASA/GAL program and its dedicated volunteers are essential to effectively serving abused and neglected children. Safety net, committed, the child's voice, trusted—are all words judges use to describe the CASA/GAL volunteer. I would add critical—to creating positive outcomes for children.

Thank you, CASA and guardian ad litem volunteers. It takes all of us to achieve National CASA’s goal that every abused and neglected child has a CASA volunteer standing by his side.

See the March 2009 Judges’ Page article, “What Do Judges Think?” and Judge Joyce Williams Warren's article, "From the Bench," in the Fall 2012 Connection to read more judicial endorsements of the work of CASA volunteers.

Robert BrutinelHon. Robert Brutinel, Presiding Judge, Yavapai County Superior Court 

2010 National CASA Association Judge of the Year
Prescott, AZ

"The one constant I see in children’s lives is the CASA."

When I think about CASAs, what I think about in addition to all the hard work, in addition to learning about the system, in addition to holding judges and the system accountable for how the system works—is consistency. Since I’ve been a juvenile court judge for almost 15 years now, everybody’s changed. Nobody that I started with is still in the juvenile system. We see new case managers all the time. Treatment professionals change. The one constant I see in children’s lives is the CASA. They are the ones that receive the graduation announcements. They are the ones still called upon to be mentors for children as they continue to grow and become adults. Thank you for the hard work. Thank you for all you do for children. Thank you for all the things that you’ve taught me about being a better judge and about being a better a human being during the time that I’ve been a juvenile judge.

Ernestine GrayHon. Ernestine GrayOrleans Parish Juvenile Court, New Orleans, LA
Past President, National CASA Association

A family court judge faces seemingly insurmountable problems every day. In this difficult environment, CASA volunteers are shining lights that help illuminate the darkness. Their dedication allows judges to ensure successful outcomes for children. For that, every family court judge I know is grateful.

William A. Thorne Jr. Hon. William A. Thorne Jr.Judge, Utah Court of Appeals
Member of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care

For more than 30 years—and for hundreds of thousands of children—CASA volunteers have allowed the problems—and the solutions—facing children in foster care to be seen from a fresh perspective, a perspective without caseloads, without institutional limitations and most invaluably “through the eyes of the child.” Each child, each family has a unique situation, a unique context of surrounding circumstances and people. Each family and each child will, while acknowledging many similarities with other families in the system, need an individually tailored plan and dedicated people and services to help them find their way home again. A CASA volunteer can be an invaluable part of correctly identifying the problem and correctly identifying the solution. Professionals—judges, lawyers, social workers, therapists—cannot do it alone. We haven’t so far. Instead we need fresh perspective a CASA volunteer can bring.

I have been privileged to have been associated with CASA as a judge, as a trainer, as a board member and as a recruiter. It is among the very best efforts I have found to help the children and the community in which we all live. Thank you to all the volunteers and staff for helping make the system work—one child at a time. You are still part of the solution!

 Richard FitzgeraldJudge Richard FitzGeraldSenior Judge, Commomwealth of Kentucky

"I think our system is good in terms of providing primary colors for our abused and neglected children. But we all know that children need pastels. CASA volunteers are the pastels in our children’s lives."

Michael NashJudge Michael Nash

 Presiding Judge, Los Angeles Juvenile Court, CA
Secretary, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

To me, CASA volunteers are the most independent persons in our process. They are not beholden to anyone but the children each of them represents. When you combine that notion with their training, their desire to help one child at a time, and the lack of a caseload, it almost always results in information and recommendations that not only help me as the judge make better decisions, but also lead to better outcomes for each child. I have seen CASA volunteers help find services for children that I was told were not available and I have seen them find permanent placements for children when our system faltered in that regard. In many instances, the efforts of CASA volunteers were absolutely heroic.