Whether you’ve been appointed to represent an indigent parent in a parental rights termination proceeding or have been hired to represent a parent in a child custody case, sooner or later you’re going to have to explain to your client why something didn’t go their way in family court. When faced with delivering bad news to a distraught parent, there’s something you should know. The parent’s first inclination will likely be to scour the internet in search of reasons why you’re wrong, and they’ll find one. Her name is Linda Jo Martin. She runs a website called FightCPS.com, where she’s been giving bad legal advice to terrified parents for the better part of 19 years. When (not if) your client finds Martin’s website or Facebook group, you’ll know it, because you’ll get a condescending, sophomoric letter from them—the one Linda Jo Martin tells them to write to you. Here’s an example of her advice:
A way to help your attorney make decisions about your case is to decide, yourself, how you want it handled. Then sit down and write your attorney a comprehensive letter detailing exactly what you want to have done.
A letter puts your attorney on notice that (1) you have some legal knowledge, (2) you want your children back, (3) you want a better quality of representation than they are giving to most clients.
On her website, Martin tells people that they have some legal knowledge. They don’t, and neither does she. She claims to be a paralegal, but she’s not. She has a technical college degree that’s decades old. She also tells the unfortunate souls who inevitably find her site that you don’t give quality representation to most of your clients.
Linda Jo Martin insists that the client write you a comprehensive letter. She even provides a template. The template tells the attorney who receives the letter how to handle the case, even telling you which standard of proof you must meet, because you don’t already know that. Any attorney receiving such a letter would immediately question the client’s mental stability. So, when you receive a lengthy, demanding letter from your client telling you how to handle the case, remember why they’re sending it. They’re afraid and frustrated, and there are people like Martin out there willing to take advantage of them—so she can get even with the system that she thinks hurt her. Linda Jo Martin isn’t interested in changing the system. Her only concern is being placed on a pedestal.
If you receive a letter like the one described, reach out to your client. They need some guidance from you, even if it’s bad news and you have to guide them through deeply troubled waters. If you’re communicating with them, they won’t have to go looking for bad advice on the internet. Also, it may be helpful to ask your client if they’ve ever taken any of Martin’s advice when communicating with CPS, the court, or others. If so, your client likely caused great harm to their case, which you might not be able to undo.
Sites like FightCPS.com are a symptom of a larger problem—lack of access to the legal system. Please, support local efforts to ensure representation in civil actions where a fundamental right is at issue, like the right to parent. PLAN supports attorneys who do pro bono or court-appointed work in family court. If we can help you with research or resources, please contact us at (575) 519-4843.