His Brother's Keeper
Elsa was referred to Public Counsel by her hospital social worker for help with establishing a joint guardianship for her 11 year-old son Manuel. Her doctor had told Elsa that a tumor surrounding her heart was inoperable. Realizing that death was imminent, Elsa's most pressing concern was for her two children. She feared that 11 year-old Manuel would be placed in a foster home and would be separated from his 18 year-old brother Jose-Luis.
Public Counsel secured pro bono attorney David Loughnot, now with Bingham McCutchen, who quickly prepared a joint legal guardianship petition for filing in the Probate Court. When she saw the petition, Elsa realized that she would not live long, and decided that she wanted her adult son, Jose-Luis, to be Manuel's joint guardian. Elsa died shortly after the petition was filed and was never able to participate in the joint guardianship.
David continued his representation, requesting that the court name Jose-Luis as his younger brother's legal guardian. Because they had lost their mother, Manuel was now eligible for immigration relief called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). David included a request for the court to make an order as to Manuel's eligibility for SIJS, and both requests were granted. We are now waiting anxiously for the Immigration Service to officially approve Manuel's case and send him his green card.
Public Counsel's social workers report that the brothers now live on their own, with Jose-Luis supporting and guiding his brother through a very difficult time. When asked what it is like to have a brother as a guardian, Manuel responded, "My brother is my friend, my enemy, my everything."