How Judge Tim McCoy and CASAs are helping abused/neglected children
By: Samantha Koepp-Stemplinger
When children who have been abused or neglected are removed from their home and need a voice to advocate for their best interests, the judge involved appoints a CASA: a court-appointed special advocate. CASAs are community volunteers who have been trained to be entrusted with such an important role to present an unbiased viewpoint to the court to help find these children in the foster system a safe, loving forever home. The judge who hears these cases in Corpus Christi is Judge Tim McCoy, who presides at County Court at Law, No. 5 at the juvenile court.
McCoy is a Corpus Christi native; his family moved here when he was in third grade. He graduated from King High School in 1996, earned a B.A. in government from UT Austin, earned a law degree from South Texas College of Law and then came back to Corpus Christi to practice law. While practicing at a civil firm, he represented a case at County Court 5 and met Judge Carl Lewis, who invited McCoy to take on more CPS and juvenile jurisdiction cases. After doing so for a year-and-a-half, McCoy started his own practice and began devoting more of himself to the juvenile court cases.
“It’s a dual-edge sword – a lot of bad cases, but you can do a lot of good work, so it can be rewarding, so it makes it worth it,” McCoy says. “So when the position came up (for County Court at Law, No. 5), I thought about running.”
Even before he was a judge, McCoy realized the value of a CASA early on in his law career. Many of the CASAs involved in cases he was working on had been teachers or had children and were able to offer their wisdom and perspective that otherwise may have not been considered. Now, as judge, he would have a CASA on every CPS case if the resources were available.
“I didn’t realize how few CASAs there really were and how hard it is to get a CASA on a case,” McCoy says. “As far as CASAs go, on cases they are instrumental, [they are] the only truly independent voice in the room other than myself. That is why I value their analysis and their opinion on a case the most, not to mention they spend the most time with the kids.”
McCoy is an advocate for volunteering for CASA not only because of their valuable services to cases, but also because of their valuable service to taxpayers. “I don’t think people realize the taxpayer money that CASA can save,” McCoy says. “When a guardian is needed on a case and a CASA isn’t available, taxpayers have to fund paying another lawyer on the case to act in that role. Then there are two lawyers on the case: the attorney guardian ad litem, plus the guardian ad litem, which is the role that CASA plays.”
CASAs are so valuable to McCoy that he makes it a priority to attend every new volunteer training session. It’s an opportunity to introduce himself to future CASAs and walk them through the processes and procedures so they are comfortable when they walk through the courtroom.
His advice for those nervous about speaking in court is that “it is not like how it is on TV. Both sides are going to have an opportunity to tell their side of the story, and that is pretty much it. You do it, and don’t worry about all the other stuff and just focus on getting your story out, and everything else will fall into place and will come naturally.”
He advises those interested in getting involved in the CASA program to sit on a morning docket at County Court at Law, No. 5 to see the process and see what happens on cases that have a CASA and those that don’t.
“It’s shocking to see what these kids are going through,” McCoy says. “I have a limited amount of time to hear facts about a case, and I have to make a decision that will affect a kid’s life, so I need to get all the information in front of me as quick as possible, and CASA is always pretty good at that.”
CASA of the Coastal Bend offers monthly trainings for new volunteers. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a CASA or about how you can support the organization, please visit www.casaofthecoastalbend.org or call Diana Booth, outreach director, at 361-884-2272.
Photo Courtesy of CASA of the Coastal Bend