A Day In The Life
Creating Brighter Futures in the Juvenile Rights Practice
As Staff Attorney’s in our Juvenile Rights Practice, Israel T. Appel, Angela Hines, and Mikila Thompson all bring a personal perspective to their dedicated work on behalf of young clients throughout New York City.
For Israel T. Appel, the work he does is personal. A high school dropout, Israel has firsthand experiences with the challenges and frustrations that many of his young clients face, but recognizes that his privilege kept him out of the systems that his clients are forced to navigate. Now, as an attorney for children effected by the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems, Israel uses his expertise to make equal justice a reality for underserved New Yorkers.
Children should be viewed as children, not criminals.
Israel fought to change a decades-old policy of ACS to request arrest warrants for children in foster care who left their placement without permission despite not breaking any law. For far too long, Family Court judges routinely issued arrest warrants for youth absent from their foster care placement—effectively criminalizing runaway foster children and alienating traumatized youth in foster care from their casework and clinical teams. Israel challenged the Court’s lack of authority to issue arrest warrants for the explicit purpose of returning youth to foster care and he won!
While Israel works to decriminalize runaway youth, Attorneys Angela Hines and Mikila Thompson are working to empower her clients in and out of the courtroom. Angela grew up in the NYCHA projects in Far Rockaway, and when she started to see her neighbors across the table as clients she wanted “to do something to help them have a better life.” So she founded Project Window, a non-profit organization that supports the young women of Far Rockaway as they mature—offering a number of unique experiences from etiquette classes and field trips to help with school applications and prom outfits. Both as an attorney and as the head of Project Window, Angela sees that she “has a unique opportunity to change the path for children.”
I was a high school dropout and teenage mom. And I became a lawyer. I try to show my clients that we all have a choice in our future.
Mikila, on the other hand, focuses on ensuring her clients’ needs are met and that she’s a strong voice for them in the courtroom. Often, this requires Mikila to break down complex legal issues for her clients. As she explains, “an eight-year-old has no idea what a judge does.” Because of that, “it’s important for me to let them know that this person makes important decisions on where they live, who they can be around, and what their daily life is like.” But her work doesn’t stop there. Mikila also asks “What happens to this child and to this family once I leave the picture?” For Mikila, the best thing for a child and their family is that they never have to come back to Family Court again. So she fights hard to support her client’s interest.
In a recent case, two children were removed from their mother and placed with a family member. Mikila represented the two young kids, who wanted nothing more than to be back with their mom. As their mother worked through her legal issues, Mikila pursued getting the young boy and girl back into her custody. As it turns out, the last court date of the case was scheduled on the young girl’s birthday. As a surprise, Mikila brought her a birthday present to the courtroom. When she gave her the present that day, “that little girl was so excited.” For Mikila, too, that day meant a lot: “It was a culmination of everything this family went through to be back together again.” Thanks to the tireless work of Attorneys like Mikala, Angela, and Israel, children can walk out of court feeling heard.
Children deserve a strong voice in the courtroom, regardless of their circumstances, since their lives are most significantly impacted by the family court intervention.
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