On Tuesday, January 16, 2024, The Vanguard reported that Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Andrea Flint faced calls for her removal from a divorce case.
The article described how Judge Flint had appointed an attorney named Sue Saign to serve as a minors counsel in the case, over a parent’s objections. Sue Saign was tasked with addressing the children’s extracurricular activities, though the court documents did not show any issues of abuse or a protracted legal battle.
Sue Saign billed $450 per hour for her work and $200 for her paralegal’s work. In less than three months, she had charged over $13,000. Some saw Judge Flint’s appointment of a minors counsel in this situation as misusing funds meant to protect children. Judge Flint serves as the liaison between the court and Santa Clara’s minors counsel panel. Questions were raised about whether she fairly assigns cases without conflicts of interest.
The article also reported on the larger minors counsel system in Santa Clara County. On average, superior court judges appoint 20-50 attorneys per month to serve as minors counsel. These roles can pay very well, with some attorneys making hundreds of thousands of dollars over their careers representing children. However, there is no limit on the fees minors counsel can charge families. In lower conflict cases where parents cannot pay, attorneys only charge $100 per hour compared to $350-800 per hour charged to wealthier families.
Unpaid minors counsel bills can lead to consequences like wage garnishment and property liens for parents. After Judge Flint did not recuse herself as requested, a formal request for disqualification was filed against her. Due to potential bias and conflicts as the liaison overseeing appointments, some sought to have her removed from the case entirely. Judge Flint’s response did not acknowledge her various ties to the legal community. The disqualification request will be reviewed by another superior court judge.
Source: The Vanguard