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    11.03.15 Disability and Civil Rights Clinic Helps Swing Court Decision in Favor of Man with Down Syndrome
    Professor Natalie Chin

    A 29-year-old man with Down Syndrome maintains his rights to marry and start a family, thanks in large part to the work of the Disability and Civil Rights Clinic directed by Professor Natalie Chin.

    Brooklyn Surrogate Court Judge Margarita López Torres denied a guardianship petition sought by family members of the man, “D.D.,” ruling their objection to him marrying was an insufficient basis for appointing them guardians. In response to the family’s request for an Article 17-A guardianship, which would have placed D.D. under the guardianship of his immediate family members, the judge appointed a guardian ad litem from the Disability and Civil Rights Clinic, which provided an 18-page report based on interviews with D.D., his family, and co-workers and friends.   

    "In an Article 17-A proceeding, the person for whom the guardianship is proposed has no due process rights at all," Chin told the New York Law Journal. “In an Article 17-A the person loses all their autonomy, the right to vote, the ability to marry, to have a say in health care and financial matters."

    Chin said the courts don't have the resources to do what the legal clinic can do "because there are no funds available to pay for a guardian ad litem."

    The Disability and Civil Rights Clinic was established in 2014 with a $1 million grant from The Taft Foundation – the largest major grant to any educational institution in support of such a program, and the first major private grant to the Law School to support a clinic. The clinic offers students an opportunity to address the pressing legal needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families by providing direct legal representation in securing government benefits and services, health and financial planning, and the protection of due process rights in housing, employment, and education. The clinic also undertakes policy initiatives, provides advice, and disseminates information to individuals and institutions about the legal environment that service providers must navigate.

    Read the New York Law Journal article.

    Read more about the Disability and Civil Rights Clinic.

    Attend the upcoming AAIDD Breakfast Roundtable on Nov. 13.