Michael Dsida, Deputy Chief Counsel of the Committee of Public Counsel Services’ Children and Family Law Division, has been named the winner of the National Association of Counsel for Children’s Outstanding Legal Advocate Award.
The award is presented to individuals who demonstrate “excellence in legal or policy advocacy throughout their career in child welfare.” Dsida will be presented with the award on August 28 at NACC’s 43rd National Child Welfare Law Virtual Conference.
“I am deeply honored by this award. I’m also proud of what it says about the outstanding advocacy provided by our private attorneys and our staff,” Dsida said. “Their work in protecting the rights and advancing the interests of children and indigent parents who are involved in Juvenile Court cases brought by the Department of Children and Families is as challenging and as important as any legal work can be.”
Dsida has been with CPCS since 2006, and has made it his mission to provide top-tier legal services to the children and parents the agency serves. He is responsible for overseeing staff in trial, appellate, and administrative offices and the nearly 900 privately assigned counsel who take CAFL cases through CPCS.
“Mike has been a tireless advocate for assuring that the lawyers handling these cases receive the training and support they need to develop and maintain their expertise,” wrote a team of CPCS attorneys and administrators in their letter nominating Dsida for the award. “Mike may be the most client-centered lawyer in the state. His first and last consideration to any decision is: ‘What is best for the client?’”
Dsida has been charged with overseeing CAFL’s rapid expansion during the past two decades and – through calm, confident leadership – led an effort to add offices and attorneys while not sacrificing quality representation.
“This is well-deserved recognition for Mike Dsida. He has been invaluable to the growth of CAFL and the success of the division in zealously representing individual clients and aggressively advocating for policy and legal changes that would make the system fairer,” said Anthony Benedetti, Chief Counsel for CPCS.
Prior to his time at CPCS, Dsida founded and directing the Civitas Child Law Clinic at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where he was also a faculty member. Shortly after his graduation from Harvard Law School, he served as an Assistant Public Guardian in Cook County, Ill. and represented children in child welfare cases while training and supervising staff attorneys to do the same.
As a litigator, Dsida argued a number of significant cases before both the Illinois Appeals Court and the US Supreme Court that focused on the rights of children. He has argued cases regarding the state’s requirement to make reasonable efforts prior to removal of a child, ensuring siblings remain placed in foster care together, and the need for mandatory permanency hearing for children.
“Mike has a very obvious respect for the population that CAFL serves and goes to great lengths to ensure their rights are protected,” Dsida’s nominators wrote. “Mike’s devotion to his work has earned him the respect of the entire CPCS community.”