Toby Hollander named as the 2004 Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award Recipient
The Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award is one of five ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards. The award is named in memory of Ann Liechty, who was a dedicated child law advocate and former Pro Bono Publico Award recipient. Each year the award recognizes a lawyer who has enhanced the lives of children by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to children involved in private child custody proceedings.
This year's recipient, Toby Hollander, has spent his entire legal career volunteering and working for pro bono organizations. From 1987 until 1990 Toby was the directing attorney at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, an organization that provides legal services to low-income individuals. After the Pine Tree branch Toby directed closed, he began focusing his pro bono efforts on the representation of children. Since 1991, Toby has volunteered with the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) as a guardian ad litem for children, handling over fifty matters, many more cases than the average volunteer attorney. Toby is such a dedicated child advocate that in 2000 he closed his private practice, and now primarily represents low-income children as a guardian ad litem in custody and protective order cases.
In addition to directly representing children, Toby has also worked to improve training programs and the quality of child representatives in Maine. He created a "brown bag lunch" series to help guardian ad litems improve their practices, and currently Maine's mandatory training for court-appointed guardian ad litems includes a piece by Toby on effective report-writing and child interviews.
Toby seeks to change not only the quality of child representation, but also the ability of low-income families to seek legal services. He has initiated many discussions about increasing resources for low-income families in Maine. Recently, Toby joined the Founders Committee for Kids Legal Aid of Maine, which is a new project at Pine Tree Legal Assistance that will expand legal aid support for low-income children at a statewide level. According to the Maine Attorney General, G. Steven Rowe, Toby has successfully educated state policy makers and court officials for improvements to Maine's child protection legal process.
Toby has been a source of guidance and an example of a truly superior child representative. He currently serves as a mentor for VLP's pro bono attorneys. According to his colleagues, Toby always has time to answer any and all questions that new volunteers have concerning a case. Informally, Toby has also worked with almost all legal aid attorneys at Pine Tree that work with children in family law proceedings. Toby understands the effects of poverty and domestic violence on children, and one of his greatest strengths is his ability to communicate with children and really determine what is in each child's best interests.
Judges respect and rely on Toby's skills as a guardian ad litem. For example, Maine District Court Judge Powers states that Toby is of "invaluable assistance to the Court in dealing with extremely complex and difficult legal and social issues." Toby puts forth more time and effort than what is expected of a court-appointed guardian ad litem, and it is his tireless dedication to representing children that has made him one of the best child advocates in the country. "His work in this area exemplifies the finest traditions of pro bono advocacy on behalf of children," wrote Nan Heald of Pine Tree Legal Assistance and Mary Richardson of VLP in their letter nominating Toby for this award.
As aptly stated by Attorney General Rowe, "Toby Hollander has been a source of inspiration to Maine's justice system. The lives of thousands of children have been improved because of his efforts."