Rutland lawyer recognized for dedication to children
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | January 18,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Adele Pastor, seated, congratulates Rutland Public Defender Steven Zwicky who was honored Thursday for his work in juvenile proceedings.
In situations where families are torn apart, Rutland attorney Steven Zwicky has spent years trying to put them back together.
Zwicky, who has spent much of his career as a public defender working in the family court system, was recognized Thursday by the Vermont Justice for Children Task Force for his exemplary work representing parents and children in juvenile proceedings.
“We’ve all dealt with trauma of different kinds in this courtroom. It’s not often that we hear about good news, but the work that Steve has done over the years has all been focused on what’s good for the children involved,” family court Judge Nancy Corsones said, addressing a courtroom full of Zwicky’s colleagues.
“With his incessant questions and his refusal to leave any stone unturned, he’s been focused like a laser on finding positive outcomes,” the judge added.
Family court cases can be among the most challenging for lawyers, judges and others involved in the family court system. Juvenile delinquent matters take up some of the court docket, but arguably the more challenging cases are so-called Children in Need of Care and Supervision cases, which entail families in crisis.
“Abuse, neglect, substance abuse, mental health issues, disabilities, social issues and poverty. Poverty is a huge issue,” Zwicky said, summing up the forces that tear apart the families he works with.
Working as part of a team of lawyers, guardians, state Department of Children and Families representatives and other advocates, Zwicky said he has worked for more than a decade to try to connect children and families to services while shielding them from a potentially damaging legal process.
“Litigation in a lot of these family situations can be a destructive process,” he said. “If we can reach some common ground, children benefit in the end. We can’t always reach that and in some cases we shouldn’t but it’s the ideal.”
That commitment hasn’t gone unrecognized.
Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Reiber, chairman of the Justice for Children Task Force, which seeks to improve situations for children in foster care and in the court system, praised Zwicky in a statement.
“Dedicated attorneys like Steve Zwicky can change the course of a child’s life through effective advocacy,” Reiber wrote.
State Deputy Defender General Anna Saxman and Vermont Juvenile Defender Bob Sheil also wrote statements praising Zwicky’s work.
But the most effusive compliments came Thursday from those the public defender has worked alongside — and occasionally fought with — the longest.
“Despite our disagreements I have always been amazed at the commitment, energy and effort Steven has made to make outcomes better for the kids,” said Deputy Rutland County State’s Attorney Kevin Klamm. “And he’s done it with an optimism and hope that he always brings to the table.”