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On March 6, 2003, Jenner & Block won an important pro bono victory on behalf of its client, Marina Tellez. Bringing to close a five year-fight, Ms. Tellez regained full custody of her two daughters after the judge found Ms. Tellez to be a fit parent, able and willing to care for her children. Ms. Tellez and her husband, both Mexican citizens, had lost custody of their children in November 1997, having been accused of physically abusing their youngest daughter. The Tellezes had always maintained their innocence, but were hampered in their ability to vindicate themselves in part because they spoke no English and were unable to effectively communicate with their former attorneys.
Jenner & Block became involved in Ms. Tellez’s case in November 2000, when associates Heather L. Kramer and Blair R. Zanzig, supervised by Partner Debbie L. Berman, responded to a request by the Mexican consulate for assistance. At the time Jenner & Block became involved, the State’s petition seeking to permanently terminate the Tellez’s parental rights was pending. Trial was imminent.
After a short period of discovery, and literally minutes before a hearing on a motion to compel the deposition of the State’s lead medical expert, the State, with concurrence from the Guardian Ad Litem’s office, agreed to drop the termination petition. Prior to this development, Ms. Tellez was limited to visiting her daughters for only an hour each month.
Over the course of the next year and a half, Ms. Kramer and Mr. Zanzig advocated on behalf of the Firm’s client in numerous evidentiary hearings to establish the client’s statutory fitness as a parent. Jenner & Block also persuaded the court to increase Ms. Tellez’s visits with her kids incrementally from one hour of supervised visits per month to five days of overnight visits per week. Finally, last Thursday, ultimate victory was achieved when the court granted the Tellez’s motion for return home and the parents left the courtroom with full legal custody of their daughters.