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20th Annual Children’s Law Institute


Speaker(s): Ariane Nolfo, LCSW, Brian Zimmerman, Carolyn Silvers, Gary Solomon, Hal Silverman, Kathleen Hoskins, Laura Daly, Melinda Skinner Cifuentes, Peninna Oren, Randy A. Hertz, Tamara Schwartz, Tehra Coles, Wendell Cruz
Recorded on: Jul. 28, 2017
PLI Program #: 180006

Melinda Skinner-Cifuentes is the Deputy Director of Training for the New York City Law Department’s Family Court Division – Juvenile Delinquency Unit, which prosecutes misdemeanor and felony juvenile delinquency cases in New York City Family Courts.  Ms. Skinner-Cifuentes assists the Director of Training with all legal training for the more than 80 juvenile delinquency attorneys across the five boroughs.  As the Deputy Director of Training, Ms. Skinner-Cifuentes organizes and presents yearly courses such as the Orientation Program for New Attorneys, the Trial Advocacy Program, the Major Case Unit Program as well as continued Leadership Training for Division supervisors.   Ms. Skinner-Cifuentes has also written a number of the courses that are taught to the Family Court attorneys.  Ms. Skinner-Cifuentes used her knowledge gained in obtaining her Masters Degree in Forensic Psychology (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) to create her most recent course entitled “The Adolescent Brain”.   The course outlines the science of adolescent brain development and how that relates to adolescent criminal behavior.

Prior to Ms. Skinner-Cifuentes’ current position, she was an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the Family Court Division’s Juvenile Delinquency Unit for eight (8) years, a member of the Major Case Unit (members of this unit are charged with prosecuting the most serious cases across the City) and was and promoted to Senior Counsel in 2015.  In that position, she was responsible for prosecuting both misdemeanor and felony juvenile delinquency cases from referral date to final disposition (sentence), including conducting interviews of crime victims, witnesses and arresting officers.  Ms. Skinner-Cifuentes litigated her cases on all court appearances from arraignment, pre-trial suppression hearings, fact-finding hearings (trial), dispositional hearings and violation of probation hearings.  She also acted as a Borough Training Coordinator (Queens), the Queens County School Presentation Coordinator & STAR TRACK Program Coordinator.

Ms. Skinner-Cifuentes is a graduate of New York Law School.


Gary Solomon is the Director of Legal Support for The Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Practice. In that capacity he participates in the training of staff and acts as a supervisor, consultant and advisor to staff; prepares practice memoranda and other continuing legal education materials and maintains the Juvenile Rights Practice’s electronic legal research system; and works closely with the Juvenile Rights Practice’s Appeals Unit and, in that capacity, has handled appeals raising important practice issues and prepared and edited amicus briefs.

Mr. Solomon participates in New York State Appellate Division-sponsored training programs for assigned counsel, and Unified Court System-sponsored training programs for judges and court attorneys.

Mr. Solomon prepares the weekly JRD Newsletter, a compilation of annotated court decisions which is made available to judges, lawyers and other professionals throughout New York state and elsewhere, and is the principal author of Volumes One, Two and Three of the Practice Manual for Children’s Attorneys. He has authored chapters on child abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights proceedings which appear in West Publishing's New York Family Court Practice.

In 2003, Mr. Solomon was awarded the Howard A. Levine Award For Excellence in Juvenile Justice And Child Welfare by the New York State Bar Association, Committee on Children and the Law.  In 2006, Mr. Solomon received the Kathryn A. McDonald Award For Excellence in Service to Family Court from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. In 2007, Mr. Solomon received the Orison Marden Award For Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Organization and to the Clients from The Legal Aid Society of New York City.


Hal Silverman is the Director of Litigation for Lawyers for Children, Inc. Prior to his position with Lawyers for Children, Inc., Mr. Silverman was a staff attorney with the Juvenile Rights Division of The Legal Aid Society. He has worked in the field of child advocacy for over twenty-five years. Mr. Silverman has represented children in proceedings involving issues of neglect, abuse, termination of parental rights, custody, adoption, PINS, and juvenile delinquency. Prior presentations include "Legal and Mental Health Collaboration in Child Maltreatment and Custody Issues"; "Domestic Violence - The Effects on Children"; "Mediation in Family  Court": "Conflicts of Interests - Ethical Responsibilities of an Attorney for the Child" and "Broken Adoptions - A Child's Return to the Foster Care System."


Ariane Nolfo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in NYS.  She is a Social Work Supervisor at the NYC Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice where she supervises the social work staff in the Queens office.  Ariane has 15 years of experience as a forensic social worker in Family Court. She assists with staff development within her agency through training and supervision.  Ariane also works with other institutional players to improve outcomes for children and adolescents in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. She is currently involved in various committees, such as the CUNY Foster Care Collaborative, Strong Starts Court Initiative, and Queens Family Court’s Teen Day.  She holds an MSW degree from Columbia University and a BA degree from Boston University.


Brian Zimmerman, Esq. is an attorney in private practice, as well as being a member of the Assigned Counsel/Attorney for the Child Panel, Kings County, and the Attorney for the Child Panel of the First Department. He specializes in Family Law and Domestic Relations issues. He was formally a law guardian with the Juvenile Rights Division for fourteen years. He currently serves as the President of the Assigned Counsel Panel in Kings County. He currently sits on the NYC Executive Committee for Child Welfare Practice, the New York City Child Protection Plan advisory committee and the New York City TPR/Adoption Advisory Committee. He also represents the Assigned Counsel Panel on the Crossover Youth Practice Model Implementation Team for Kings County, and sits on the Implementation, Training and Permanency Subcommittees. He is a former member of the Family Law Committee of the Bar Association of the City of New York. He is also a former chair of the Family Court Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association, as well as a member of the Executive Committee of the Interdisciplinary Forum for Mental Health and Family Law. He is a member of the Founding Steering Committee for the Children’s Pact program in Kings County, and now serves on the Advisory Board for FamilyKind. He was on the 18B Advisory Board for the Center for Family Representation. He is a former member of the Family Law Committee and Family Court Screening Committees for the Brooklyn Bar Association. He recently co-authored a Law review article with Dawn J. Post entitled, “The Revolving Doors of Family Court: Confronting Broken Adoptions”, 40 Cap. U. L. Rev. 437 (2012). He has lectured on Family Law issues for the Court Improvement Project of the State of New York, New York City Bar Association, the Brooklyn Bar Association, NYCLA, the NYSBA, the New York State Judicial Institute, the Kings County Family Justice Center, New York City Family Court Legal Services Project, FamilyKind, New York Law School, The Capital Law School, Wells Conference, American Bar Association Children and the Law Conference, St. Johns Adoption Conference, and the First and Second  Department Law Attorney for the Children’s Office. He is a graduate of Cornell University and Cardozo School of Law.


Carolyn Silvers is the Attorney-in-Charge of the Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice Queens trial office.  In her 29 years with JRP, Carolyn has represented young people in child protective, juvenile delinquency, and PINS case in New York City Family Courts in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens and has also supervised staff in all five boroughs.  For eighteen years, Carolyn has also worked as an instructor for the National Institute For Trial Advocacy (NITA).  She received a B.S. degree from Northwestern University in 1984 and her J.D. in 1987 from the New York University School of Law.


Kathleen Hoskins, Esq., M.P.A. is the Director of the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Office of Education Support and Policy Planning (OESPP).  Her office supports all the child welfare divisions within ACS through education consultations, professional development, advocacy and policy development to address the educational needs of the children and youth that the agency serves.  Kathleen’s expertise in child welfare and education are a result of her professional experience in both realms.   Prior to her appointment as Director of OESPP, she served the New York City Department of Education (DOE) as a special education attorney and later as Executive Agency Counsel, providing legal advice for principals, school support staff, and school administrators for 125 schools including District 75 special education schools.  Prior to that, she served as a prosecutorial attorney for ACS in Queens Family Court.

Kathleen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at Stonybrook, a Master’s of Public Administration from the City University of New York Baruch College and a J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law.


Laura Beth Daly, Esq., is the Legal Director of the Education Advocacy Project at Lawyers for Children, which she established through an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2008.  Within the project, Ms. Daly, in partnership with a dedicated Lawyers for Children social worker, advocates for the general and special education needs of youth in foster care in New York City.  Ms. Daly represents children and young people who are the subject of abuse, neglect, adoption, custody, visitation, guardianship, and voluntary placement proceedings in New York County Family Court, in addition to advocating for youth in care who require representation and assistance in IEP development, impartial hearings against the Department of Education, and in ensuring educational stability and appropriate enrollment.  Ms. Daly received her undergraduate degree from Loyola University Maryland in 2004 and her Juris Doctorate from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in 2008, where she was a Child and Family Advocacy Fellow at the Center for Children, Families and the Law, as well as the Managing Editor of the Family Court Review.


Peninna Oren currently supervises the attorneys and legal support staff at ACS’ Staten Island Family Court Legal Services office.  Prior to that, Peninna was an Assistant Supervising Attorney in ACS’ Manhattan Family Court Legal Services office.  Peninna has been an attorney for ACS since 2009. Peninna graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2005. She continues to appear in court to represent ACS in all stages of Article Ten cases from the initial filing through the achievement of permanency, including Fact-Finding hearing, Permanency Hearings, and various emergency hearings scheduled throughout the pendency of a case.  Peninna provides legal counsel to ACS’ Division of Child Protection and provides guidance to her staff regarding all of ACS’ policies and procedures.  She also works to develop the staff attorneys’ legal practice and knowledge and mentors attorneys to ensure they are aware of all available legal options. Peninna deeply believes in ACS’ mission to ensure the safety and welfare of children and to provide support and assistance to families.  Peninna is proud of her and her office’s role in contributing to that mission.


Randy Hertz is the Vice Dean of N.Y.U. School of Law and the director of the law school’s clinical program.  He has been at the law school since 1985, and teaches the Juvenile Defender Clinic, first-year Criminal Law, and a simulation course titled “Criminal Litigation.”  Before joining the N.Y.U. faculty, he worked at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, in the juvenile, criminal, appellate and special litigation divisions.  He writes in the areas of criminal and juvenile justice and is the co-author, with Professor James Liebman of Columbia Law School, of a two-volume treatise titled “Federal Habeas Corpus Law and Practice”; the co-author, with Professor Anthony G. Amsterdam of N.Y.U. Law School, of “Trial Manual for the Defense of Criminal Cases”; and the co-author, with Professor Amsterdam and N.Y.U. Law Professor Martin Guggenheim, of “Trial Manual for Defense Attorneys in Juvenile Delinquency Cases.” He is an editor-in-chief of the Clinical Law Review.  In the past, he has served as the Chair of the Council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar; a consultant to the MacCrate Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap; a reporter for the Wahl Commission on ABA Accreditation of Law Schools; a reporter for the New York Professional Education Project; and the chair of the AALS Standing Committee on Clinical Legal Education.  He received NYU Law School’s Podell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2010; the Equal Justice Initiative’s Award for Advocacy for Equal Justice in 2009; the Association of American Law Schools’ William Pincus Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Legal Education in 2004; the NYU Award for Distinguished Teaching by a University Professor in 2003; and the American Bar Association’s Livingston Hall award for advocacy in the juvenile justice field in 2000.


Tamara Schwartz serves as a Court Attorney Referee in the New York County Family Court.  She presides over permanency hearings in child protective, voluntary foster care, and destitute child cases.  She also presides over the Transitional Planning Court Part (TPC).  The TPC uses specialized protocols to meaningfully include and enhance outcomes for youth aging out of foster care.  In addition, Referee Schwartz presides over hearings and conferences in child custody, guardianship and order of protection matters.  Prior to her appointment, she served as a court attorney to the Hon. Sara P. Schechter, the Hon. Gloria Sosa-Lintner and the Hon. Marian Shelton in the NYC Family Court.  Referee Schwartz earned a B.S. from Northwestern University and a J.D. cum laude from Boston University School of Law.


Tehra Coles, Esq., Litigation Supervisor, joined CFR in 2011.  Ms. Coles received her J.D. in June of 2009 from Albany Law School where she worked as a clinical extern at the Albany County Public Defender’s Office in criminal court and a judicial intern for the Hon. Eugene P. Devine.  Prior to joining CFR, Ms. Coles was an Assistant Public Defender in Albany County and represented parents in Article 10 cases as well as both petitioners and respondents in Article 8 and 6 cases.  She also worked as a law clerk for the New York State Defender’s Association and New York State Justice Fund, Ms. Coles received her B.A. in Political Science and Masters of Social Sciences from Hollins University in 2004 and 2005 respectively.


Wendell Cruz, Esq.,was hired as a Litigation Supervisor by The Center for Family Representation (CFR) in May 2016. CFR is a groundbreaking, nonprofit legal services organization dedicated to providing free legal assistance and social work services to families in crisis in New York City.  In collaboration with the Directors and management team at CFR, Wendell is assisting in developing the organization’s Criminal Defense Practice, which will enable holistic representation for their clients who have concurrent Family and Criminal Court cases.  Wendell comes to CFR after spending ten years as a staff attorney with New York County Defender Services (NYCDS) in Manhattan.  In this role he handled all levels of misdemeanor and felony cases, including multiple jury trials in New York County Supreme Court.  Additionally, he represented several clients on high profile cases, such as Alex Hausner, accused stalker of CNN journalist, Anderson Cooper, and Max Rosenblum, who was charged in a drug sale connected to the death of noted actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, on a subsequent case.  In addition to carrying his full complement of cases, Wendell was the named the “Juvenile Defense Specialist” attorney at NYCDS, to represent their juvenile offender clients charged as adults in the New York County Supreme Court.  Prior to working at NYCDS, he served as the Assistant Attorney In Charge for the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society’s Queens office in New York City.  In this role he was the direct supervisor for the attorneys assigned to handle juvenile delinquency cases in Queens County Family Court.  Prior to his supervisory role, Wendell worked as a staff attorney for their office in the Bronx, from 1997 to 2004, where he handled both child protective and juvenile delinquency cases.  Wendell graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law, where he was a member of the Honor Council & received the Pro Bono Service Program Award.  He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from St. John’s University in New York, and currently serves on their advisory board for their Division of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies & Homeland Security.