The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program on Tuesday praised the selection of Judge Michelle T. Morley of the Fifth Judicial Circuit as the 2019 winner of the prestigious Judge William E. Gladstone Award, which recognizes judges and magistrates who have made the greatest contribution to the courts in serving dependent children and their families. The Florida Department of Children and Families announced the selection at today’s opening session of the Child Protection Summit in Orlando.
The award is named for the late Eleventh Circuit Judge William E. Gladstone, in honor of his pioneering work in the placement, motivation, treatment and education of abused and neglected children and youth who came before him.
“Getting children to safe, permanent homes in a timely fashion is what it’s all about,” said Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director of the Guardian ad Litem Program and a volunteer advocate himself. “There are more than 10,000 Floridians who volunteer as guardians ad litem to represent abused, abandoned and neglected children in court, and we know that when you have someone like Judge Morley working so hard to get children and families to a better place, everyone wins.”
“Judge Morley takes all her cases personally,” added Circuit Director Marcia Hilty of the Guardian ad Litem Program of the Fifth Judicial Circuit. “She is well-versed on the facts, histories, challenges and opportunities associated with each case. No matter the circumstances, she takes the time to talk with the children’s parents and the children themselves.”
Judge Morley received her undergraduate degree in business management from the University of Tampa and her J.D. from the Stetson University College of Law. In 2002, the Florida Supreme Court certified her as a mediator of family law, County Court and Circuit Court cases. Before being elected to the judiciary in 2006, she practiced law for two decades, successfully handling a wide variety of civil and criminal cases, teaching law and serving as an active volunteer.
In addition to her work in the courtroom, Judge Morley is devoted to addressing poverty and bringing more people from welfare to work. As an affiliate of the non-profit network Bridges out of Poverty, she has traveled the country talking with people about strategies, tools and resources that are specifically designed for social, health and legal professionals who work with impoverished constituents.
Although Judge Morley has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, she’s quick to point out that being able to safely reunify a child with his or her parents is her most prized reward.
To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or to become a volunteer, visit GuardianAdLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1425.