Family Defense Practice Group

The Family Defense Practice Group (formerly TPR Practice Group) is a growing practice area and has been active in training, legislative advocacy, and attorney collaboration since its inception in 2012. The goal of the practice group is to provide staff attorneys and private bar attorneys with the training and resources necessary to fight for families to be reunited as soon as possible. Whether it is through attempting to prevent the removal of children at the CHIPS stage or fighting for parents to preserve their right to parent their children during a termination of parental rights (TPR) case, our staff and private bar attorneys work to prevent the devastating effects of family separation.  The focus of the Family Defense Practice Group is to ensure the best representation of parents in these actions and to work with system partners to ensure fair procedures in child welfare and TPR cases throughout the state.

When the group first began, one of the first identified needs was to conduct and update the training program and develop an intensive, two-day, TPR-specific training. That training still occurs regularly and is supplemented by other, shorter trainings throughout the State. Training focused on TPR cases includes every aspect of the TPR process. (TPR Protocol). Also, as the State Public Defender expanded its representation of parents in CHIPS cases through a five-county pilot project, initial and ongoing training has been developed for private bar and staff attorneys in CHIPS cases.

The SPD remains committed to working with the other branches of government on evolving legislation and legislative committees. SPD staff work with the agency's legislative liaison to ensure that our clients' voices are heard, not just in the courtroom, but also in the state capitol. We ask that if anyone hears of legislative actions concerning parents in TPR or CHIPS cases, to please contact one of the practice group coordinators or the SPD's legislative liaison.  

We are always looking for areas to coordinate efforts between attorneys representing TPR and CHIPS parents in all geographic areas of Wisconsin, and at the trial and appellate levels. If you see an area that would benefit from coordinated statewide levels, don't hesitate to let us know.

We hope that the Family Defense Practice Group website will be a readily accessible resource for staff and private-bar attorneys to find and share sample motions, ideas, research, and other resources. Long-term plans for the website could include a transcript bank to allow practitioners to “see” the work of other attorneys in specific areas of litigation. If you have motions, briefs, guides, etc. that you would like to contribute, please send them our way. Also, if you are looking for something on the website and do not see it, please let us know so that we can help you. The only way all of us are going to provide the best representation possible is by working together for our clients.

For more information, please contact the Family Defense Practice Group Coordinators:

Diane Rondini-Harness has been a staff attorney in the State of Wisconsin Milwaukee Juvenile  Public Defender’s Office since 1987.  Attorney Rondini-Harness represents children in delinquency  proceedings, child in need of protection and services proceedings, and juvenile in need of protection  and services proceedings.  She also represents parents in termination of parental rights proceedings.  Attorney Rondini-Harness is a 1984 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA  degree in Political Science and a certificate in Women’s Studies.  She is a 1987 graduate of the  University Of Wisconsin Law School.  Ms. Rondini-Harness has served as an adjunct instructor at  Bryant & Stratton College, teaching Criminal Courts and Juvenile Justice.  Attorney Rondini-Harness is currently an adjunct professor at Marquette University in the College of Professional Studies.  Courses taught include:  Criminal Theory  in Public Service and Social Policy, Special Topics:  Children in Need of Protection and Services, Introduction to Criminology, Juvenile Justice, Ethics in the Criminal Justice System, and Women, Crime and the Law.  Attorney Rondini-Harness has been a member of the College of Professional Studies Graduate Assessment Committee and the College of Professional Studies Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  She has also served as a faculty advisor to several students for independent study and the capstone experience.  Ms. Rondini-Harness has been a guest lecturer in the Juvenile Justice course at Marquette University Law School, and was a volunteer speaker at the Marquette Law School Public Service Conference, “Leaping the Gaps for Children with Special Needs.”  Attorney Rondini-Harness has participated in several juvenile certification trainings for the Wisconsin State Public Defender.  She has served as a volunteer committee member on the United Way of Greater Milwaukee Healthy Girls Initiative, and as a volunteer advisory board member for the Confidentiality Project, a joint project between the Children’s Court Improvement Program and the Children’s Justice Act Program.

Contact Diane Rondini-Harness: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Elisabeth Stockbridge:
 Separation of children from their families is traumatic, and if the removal of children eventually results in termination of parental rights, families are devastated. For these reasons, CHIPS and TPR cases are some of the most important that are handled by SPD and SPD-appointed attorneys. They can also be some of the most legally interesting and rewarding cases. Beth Stockbridge, Family Defense Practice Coordinator for the SPD, is a trial attorney in the Shawano office. Beth has been a public defender since 2011, after clerking for the Brown County Circuit Court judges for two years. She earned her law degree from the University of Wisconsin and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Augsburg College. Beth has fought for parents in CHIPS and TPR cases throughout Wisconsin, though she also has a wide-ranging caseload from misdemeanors to mental health commitments to serious felonies. Beth has a passion for working collaboratively with her fellow brilliant and hard-working parents' attorneys to develop a compassionate, creative, and collaborative approach to fighting to reunify families. If you have an idea of how the Family Defense Practice Group can better equip attorneys to advocate for parents or if you just want to brainstorm a case, please call or e-mail anytime! 

Contact Elisabeth Stockbridge: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.