Representative of children with special needs
selected as Nelson Mullins 'Fellow'
ATLANTA (May 17, 2010) – A dedicated attorney for children with special needs will begin a one-year Fellowship at Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc. in June funded by a grant from the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP law firm. Craig Goodmark currently serves as director of the TeamChild Atlanta Project at the organization. As director, Mr. Goodmark provides technical assistance, advocacy, and full legal representation to low income families whose children with disabilities are not having their developmental, educational, or mental health needs met. Mr. Goodmark has represented hundreds of students in the metropolitan Atlanta area secure appropriate educational services.
Previously, Mr. Goodmark helped Nelson Mullins establish an extension of the TeamChild project, "TeamChild: Early Intervention," which focused on identifying and advocating for babies and young children with special needs as early as possible. By advocating for services earlier, Nelson Mullins’ TeamChild Project sought to maximize an at-risk child’s chance of staying on the right path, being successful in school, and staying out of the juvenile justice system. Mr. Goodmark has supported this project within the Firm's Atlanta office and has actively supervised the Firm's attorneys in representing dozens of children with special needs.
"Craig assisted Nelson Mullins in creating its own TeamChild program, and since then more than 30 Nelson Mullins attorneys and paralegals have helped families access Georgia's early intervention or special education programs," said Elisa Kodish, a litigator and partner for the Firm's Atlanta office who launched TeamChild: Early Intervention after serving a four-month fellowship at Atlanta Legal Aid's downtown office in 2003. "Craig is a talented attorney and juvenile law expert who has supervised the Firm's Early Intervention project since 2003 and is the ideal recipient of this Fellowship."
"This is a continuation of the great relationship between Atlanta Legal Aid and Nelson Mullins," Mr. Goodmark said. "The number of successful outcomes Nelson Mullins’ attorneys have achieved for kids with special needs is wonderful. Their collaborations with Legal Aid have set the bar for pro bono work in Atlanta. With Elisa's energy and Ken Millwood's leadership, the Firm has offered an unbelievable team that has really delivered for Atlanta Legal Aid and Atlanta’s youth."
Prior to entering legal services, Mr. Goodmark spent five years in private practice at law firms specializing in education law, with an emphasis on special education litigation. Mr. Goodmark has represented teachers, students, and families of children with disabilities. Mr. Goodmark currently sits on the Educational Advocacy Advisory Committee with the Fulton County Juvenile Court and the State Bar of Georgia Children and the Courts Committee. Mr. Goodmark is also a member of the national organization for special education lawyers, the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates.
"Craig came to us out of the blue wanting to help us and volunteer, and his background was in special education cases. He volunteered on the TeamChild project to work to keep kids with disabilities out of juvenile detention," said Steve Gottlieb, Atlanta Legal Aid Society executive director.
"Craig does great work for Atlanta’s kids, and he has a passion for it. He also works with children with illnesses who need special accommodations. Schools have a responsibility under the law to take care of disabled kids, and Craig has been effective in reminding the schools that they have this responsibility," Mr. Gottlieb said.
Mr. Goodmark is an honors graduate of the University of Florida College of Law where he participated in the initial TeamChild Clinic in Gainesville, Florida.
Nelson Mullins has been awarding Fellowship grants since 1997 through its donor-directed fund maintained by the Central Carolina Community Foundation. All grants are to assist with children's issues.
Nelson Mullins' attorneys and paralegals assist families in exercising their legal rights and protections afforded to special needs children under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and other applicable state and federal laws. For its work on Team Child: Early Intervention, the State Bar of Georgia awarded the Firm its William B. Spann Pro Bono award in 1998.
Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. is the primary provider of legal services to low-income people in Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Clayton and Cobb counties. Last year, attorneys handled nearly 25,000 cases, primarily involving housing, family, and senior citizens issues. Begun in 1924 by 17 prominent local attorneys, Atlanta Legal Aid has meant access to justice for countless individuals.
Established in 1897, Nelson Mullins has more than 400 attorneys and government relations professionals practicing from 12 office locations in the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. For more information on the Firm, go to www.nelsonmullins.com, or call 803.255.9794.