Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Thursday afternoon that the attorney general’s office will take over appellate representation of the Department of Child Services. DCS currently utilizes attorneys of its choice in appellate matters.
Taking over legal services for DCS on appeals has been under review in the AG’s office since March. The office sent a letter to DCS dated Thursday informing the agency of the change.
“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.
This change is triggered administratively through the revised consent letter, and it will become effective as soon as transitional details are finalized, but no later than Jan. 1, 2013, according to a release from the attorney general. DCS attorneys will continue to represent the agency in trial court.
The DCS appellate caseload volume is around 150 cases; the AG’s office currently has 144 deputy attorneys general. Zoeller said his office will work with DCS over the new 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.”