Rebecca Zimmerman, the recipient of the 2012 Women’s Bar Association Foundation Founder’s Fellowship, is a third-year law student at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law where she is the Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic University Law Review. With the support of the Women’s Bar Association Foundation, she spent her summer as a law clerk at Children’s Law Center, a non-profit organization that strives to give every child in the District of Columbia a solid foundation of family, health, and education. As a law clerk, Rebecca worked primarily with attorneys in the Family Permanency Project (FPP), a small group dedicated to providing free, high-quality legal assistance to third-party caregivers, such as foster parents, grandparents, or other relatives, in adoption, custody, and guardianship cases. FPP attorneys also provide representation for children in high-conflict custody matters when their family stability is threatened.
As a law clerk, Rebecca worked closely with attorneys on a number of cases including helping a first-time foster mother adopt her three-and-a-half year old foster child, assisting a grandmother obtain custody of her two grandchildren, and representing a maternal grandmother in obtaining permanent guardianship of her teenage grandson. Many of the children involved in these cases entered the foster care system from troubled homes where drug use and domestic violence were prevalent. These cases also often involved the termination of parental rights of the biological parent(s) or competing petitions for adoption or custody. Rebecca’s involvement on each case ranged from interviewing clients and drafting initial petitions to researching evidentiary issues pertaining to expert testimony and preparing for trials and hearings by drafting opening and closing statements and witness examination questions.
Rebecca also had the opportunity to observe the FPP attorneys in action as they advocated for the best interests of their juvenile clients during high conflict custody hearings involving allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence. While at Children’s Law Center, she also participated in CLC’s trial skills program, a rigorous summer-long mock exercise designed to familiarize law clerks with a guardian ad litem’s role in a neglect and abuse case from start to finish.