Neil Weiss

Neil Weiss

He fights for parents who are in need of a second chance

Everett attorney Neil Weiss watches for situations that are “a perfect moment for an intervention.”

This is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders award, which highlights and celebrates people who are doing good work in Snohomish County. The winner is to be announced during an online event on Thursday. Meet the other finalists.

Neil Weiss, 34

Attorney, ABC Law Group, Everett

While a college student, Neil Weiss served on a jury in a criminal trial.

He watched the proceedings closely and thought, “I can do this.”

For Weiss, then an accounting major at Washington State University in Pullman, it was a turning point.

Although his father was an attorney, up to that point he’d never intended to follow in his footsteps.

But the experience inspired him to attend law school at Seattle University.

As a law student, Weiss interned at the City of Everett Prosecutor’s Office.

After graduating in 2012, Weiss joined ABC Law, an Everett firm that focuses on family law and criminal defense.

Today his practice includes representing parents in cases in which the state is seeking custody of their children, he said.

“Often times our clients’ children are in foster care, and we advocate for parents to have them returned to their care,” Weiss said.

His work is not without controversy.

“A lot of people have strong opinions around it,” he said of the state’s power to legally separate families and remove children from the home.

One practice in particular troubles Weiss: cases in which the state is authorized to take a newborn from its mother if there are indications of illicit drug use during pregnancy.

“I represent mothers in court that are a day or two out from having given birth, and their baby has already been taken from them,” he said.

When appropriate, those mothers should instead be given the opportunity to enter treatment and take their newborn with them, he said.

“It’s a perfect moment for an intervention,” said Weiss. “Not every one of these moms is going to be successful, but this presents an opportunity.”

Said a nominator, “He makes a point of giving back after hours to numerous organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County. He is a leader full of potential in legal circles and the community at large.”

When Weiss learned that the Snohomish County rules governing supervised parental visits weren’t in line with other counties in the state, he gathered evidence and filed a motion.

“Prior to my work, parents were routinely given two hours a week of supervised visitation with their children,” he said.

The court ruled in favor of his motion, changing the county’s visitation policy.

Now, supervised visits can be anywhere from three to six hours per week.

“While this seems relatively minor, it’s an exponential increase in visitation for children and families across the county,” said Weiss.

Not all longstanding rules are inviolate. “Just because a practice is well-established does not mean it is right,” he said.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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