Las Vegas Model Court

Brief History

In September 2008, the 8th Judicial District Family Court of Las Vegas was selected to become one of the newest Victims Act “Model Court” demonstration sites. The Las Vegas Model Court has three judges and three hearing masters, led by Judge Frank Sullivan.  The Las Vegas Model Court is dedicated to protecting children and supporting families by providing timely and comprehensive hearings in order to ensure appropriate services for the children and their families, and to providing a safe, nurturing and permanent home for every child.

Leadership

Current Lead Judge: Judge Frank P. Sullivan

Past Lead Judge: Judge Diane Steel

Court website - http://www.clarkcountycourts.us/ejdc/courts-and-judges/family.html

Successfully Implemented Signature Best Practices

The Las Vegas Model Court has implemented a Preliminary Protective Hearing (PPH) template to help ensure that the judicial officers are making inquiries into the key issues in the case. The template is not used merely as a checklist, but as a means to elicit important information so that the court can make informed decisions. For example, the template specifically addresses safety of the child, placement of the child, service of process, advising the parties of their legal rights, appointment of counsel, Indian Child Welfare Act applicability, parentage and paternity testing as appropriate, relative and fictive kin placement resources, services for the family, reasonable efforts, etc. Implementation of this template has significantly improved the quality of the PPH hearings.  

The Las Vegas Model Court has also implemented a rather extensive case management system in order to effectively measure the timeliness of the various court proceedings. The case management system identifies every child in the child welfare system, when the child entered the system, and to which judicial officer the case is assigned. The case management system also measures the timeliness of all court proceedings pursuant to the timeframes established by federal guidelines. Specifically, the case management assists with case flow management by measuring the time to PPH hearings, adjudicatory hearings, dispositional hearings, review hearings, permanency planning hearings, Termination of Parental Rights hearings, and adoption hearings. The case management system provides data as to the timeliness of hearings at the various stages in terms of the percentage of cases meeting the timeliness guidelines.

The Las Vegas Model Court has also implemented a pilot Dependency Mediation Program as an alternate to court proceedings. Dependency Mediation is based on a very simple premise that a confidential conversation among all parties may result in positive results and provides both families and professionals with an opportunity to discuss emotional issues openly in a confidential, non-judgmental process facilitated by a trained professional.  The mediation program was initially designed to help resolve the Neglect/Abuse Petition in a non-adversarial manner in order to timely resolve such petitions without the need for time-consuming adjudicatory hearings. However, the Dependency Mediation Program has been expanded to include a variety of issues, including placement, visitation, services for the family, and other issues as they arise.       

Additional Best Practices and Initiatives Implemented 

One Family-One Judge and Hearing Master

Child Protection Mediation

Dependency Mental Health Court

ICWA Inquiries on the record at the Preliminary Protective Hearing

NATIONAL GOAL: Courts Catalyzing Change

The Las Vegas Model Court has created a Courts Catalyzing Change (CCC) Committee comprised of community partners to address the disproportionality and disparate treatment of children and families of color. Of particular concern to the community is the over-representation of African-American children in the child welfare system. This is an issue which the Model Court is addressing with community leaders, particularly leaders of the African-American community, both non-faith based and faith based. The Model Court is also planning implementation of the CCC Benchcard by December 2013. 

STATE GOAL: Nevada Initiative to Reduce Long-Term Foster Care

The Las Vegas Model Court is continuing to work with the CIP to implement recommendations related to the most recent CFSR review, and specifically to eliminate barriers to timely permanency. The Court has recently assigned a third Dependency Judge to assist with the heavy caseloads and just lately implemented a case management system that should help improve case flow management and identify the need for additional judicial resources.

LOCAL GOAL:

The Las Vegas Model Court continues to focus upon creating a Parent Advocate Program akin to what has been successfully implemented in other Model Courts across the nation. The goal is to equip and empower parents with the resources and peer advocates that they need so that they can successfully reunify with their children.  The goal is to implement the program by September 2013.