Court Roundup

 Missouri

High Court won’t hear adoption rules challenge 
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by a Guatemalan woman seeking to overturn the adoption of her biological child by a Carthage couple.
Encarnacion Romero sought to challenge a Missouri Court of Appeals decision terminating her parental rights to the child who was adopted by Seth and Melinda Moser. The Mosers have raised the child, who is now 7, since he was a year old. Legal battles have gone on since 2008.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruling, issued Tuesday, means there are no more options for Romero in Missouri courts, said Joe Hensley, the Moser’s lawyer. Any further appeal of the adoption would have to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, The Joplin Globe reported.
The child was 11 months old when Romero was arrested in May 2007 in an immigration raid at a Barry County poultry processing plant. She left her child with her brother, who gave the baby to a sister. The sister left the baby with a Carthage couple who agreed to the adoption by the Mosers.
The mother’s parental rights were terminated because she abandoned the child and made no attempt to maintain contact or provide for the boy during the two years she was incarcerated after being arrested on immigration violations.
The biological mother’s supporters argue that she lost custody because she is an immigrant in the country illegally.
Romero’s attorneys asked the state Supreme Court to hear their challenge of an appeals court decision handed down in October that terminated her parental rights and upheld the adoption. The appellate court ruled in a unanimous decision.
Bill Fleischaker, of Joplin, one of several attorneys voluntarily representing Romero, said there has been no decision on options or how to respond to the state Supreme Court ruling.
 
 
Missouri
Kansas City law firm helps victims of trafficking 
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City law firm has committed to representing human-trafficking victims referred by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in western Missouri.
The federal prosecutor’s office in Kansas City has been stepping up prosecutions in human-trafficking cases in the Kansas City area since 2006. But the office and other law enforcement agencies have had to work hard to find outside lawyers willing to work for free to help the victims.
The law firm, Husch Blackwell, with about 600 lawyers in Kansas City and elsewhere, has committed to representing the victims, The Kansas City Star reported. More than 30 lawyers in the firm’s offices in Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., have volunteered to join its Human Trafficking Legal Clinic.
The leader of that law firm’s effort is one of its newest partners, Cynthia Cordes, a former U.S. attorney who specialized in trafficking.
“In every single case, the victim is going to have some legal issues that they need assistance with,” said Cordes, who prosecuted more human-trafficking cases than any other assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. She said the victims’ legal issues can detract from their willingness to serve as government witnesses.
The victims may need help with immigration and visa issues, or with collection agencies seeking payment on medical bills for treatment of injuries from abusive clients.
Cordes said identity theft among trafficking victims also is common when the criminals open credit accounts in their workers’ names. And damaged credit can complicate a trafficking victim’s ability to secure housing and transportation, Cordes said.
Jennifer Schwendemann, Husch Blackwell’s pro bono services director, said Husch Blackwell’s involvement means that a variety of legal specialists can work on a single case.
“We want to help create a situation where they can start a new life,” Schwendemann said. “We don’t want to just put a Band-Aid on an issue and send them out the door and have them face another legal issue later.”

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