Celebrating Tara Ford: Recognized as a Top Plaintiff Lawyer by the Daily Journal!

We are thrilled to share that Tara Ford, Interim Directing Attorney for Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project, has been named a Top Plaintiff Lawyer for 2023 by the Daily Journal. This prestigious recognition reflects Tara’s remarkable achievements, expertise, and commitment to protecting the rights of children and their families across diverse practice areas, from education and special education to healthcare and mental health. Tara is a tremendous advocate for children in the dependency system, as well as for Native American children, families, and tribes, particularly in crucial legal areas like education, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and voting rights, and her tireless efforts have led to landmark decisions and significant policy reforms.

Earlier this year, working with Sullivan & Cromwell, Tara secured the resolution of a wide-ranging challenge to the use of harmful physical restraints and seclusion practices by a public school in the Bay Area that serves students with behavioral and emotional needs. Thanks to Tara’s leadership, we won landmark settlements that enhance state oversight, ensure students receive individualized services and support, and train teachers to promote a more positive learning environment. In another historic legal battle, in partnership with the Native American Disability Law Center and Munger, Tolles & Olson, Tara championed the rights of Native American students to receive a quality education, culminating in transformative settlements that hold the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education responsible for its failure to provide adequate educational opportunities to students who attend Havasupai Elementary School, located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

In 2020, Tara negotiated an innovative settlement that unites advocates for children and youth with state agencies and nationally recognized experts to implement critical reforms for New Mexico’s foster care system, which at the time was recognized as one of the nation’s worst. In July, Tara facilitated a new corrective agreement with the state of New Mexico that clears the way for the State to fulfill its legal requirement, and she continues to work to enforce this corrective agreement. Closer to home, Tara recently led Public Counsel’s team in collaboration with the Alliance for Children’s Rights, Children’s Rights, and Munger Tolles & Olson in the filing of a class action lawsuit against the State of California and L.A. County, challenging L.A. County’s foster care system’s persistent failure to provide transition age youth (ages 16-21) in foster care with the essential housing and services to which they are legally entitled.

Additionally, Tara’s advocacy has extended to the U.S. Supreme Court as the co-author of an amicus brief in defense of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), contributing to a pivotal victory this year for the rights of Native American/Alaska Native children.

We are incredibly proud of Tara’s achievements and are grateful for her dedication to justice and the well-being of children and families. In addition, her colleagues at Public Counsel, and anyone fortunate enough to work with her, know Tara as a brilliant and warm individual and an all-around exceptional person. Please join us in celebrating Tara’s well-deserved accolade! Her recognition as a Top Plaintiff Lawyer is not just an honor for her but a testament to the impactful work Public Counsel continues to champion.

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