A new rule currently pending review by the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Judiciary Committee calls for additional advocacy for neglected and abused animals.
Speaking up for those who can’t
As proposed, Connecticut House Bill 5344 would allow “a separate advocate” to be appointed “to represent the interests of the animal” or “the interests of justice” in certain cases.
The person selected from a list of qualified volunteers kept by the Commissioner of Agriculture would:
- Monitor the case
- Obtain information that would assist the judge or fact finder through consultations with relevant individuals
- Review relevant records
- Attend hearings
- Issue relevant recommendations
Passion and professionalism
The selection of an advocate selected in a case specified under the new rule could be made by the court itself or at the behest of a lawyer or party involved in the case. The advocates would either be attorneys “with knowledge of animal issues and the legal system” or law students from schools that “have students or anticipate having students with an interest in animal issues and the legal system.”
Participating students would be bound by specific guidelines pertaining to legal interns set forth in the Connecticut Practice Book. The “book” includes the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules for the Superior Court and Code of Judicial Conduct for Connecticut lawyers.
Well, here’s another “no-brainer.”
As evidenced by numerous articles on the subject, animal law is a growing discipline requiring a specific skill set. Allowing a separate advocate with the necessary knowledge and/or passion for and interest in the work to do the “heavy lifting” in cases involving “the welfare or custody of an animal” benefits everyone involved. For one thing, it takes the burden off lawyers who aren’t as well-versed in this particular area. More importantly, it ensures that the person making the final decision has all of the information he or she needs in order to do so.
But most importantly of all, it ensures that there is a “voice” for those who can’t speak for themselves.