Chances are, if you’ve attended a hearing in Cumberland or Salem Counties, you’ve had the pleasure of meeting this guy: Defense attorney, Stephen Kernan. His quick wit and sense of humor could easily be mistaken as snarky, but, don’t let him fool you – he has a heart of gold. Most recently, he participated in a fundraiser, in which he had his infamous 13-inch ponytail cut off in an effort to raise money for teddy bears to go to the children who become adopted. The fundraiser raised over $1,000. One of the hardest positions for an advocate to understand is that of a defense attorney. They represent the parents and caregivers who many times have neglected or placed their children in harm’s way. But, despite our initial reaction, the defense attorneys are not necessarily the bad guys. They, too, want their client’s to comply and work toward reunification.
Mr. Kernan became involved with DCP&P cases when he was doing pull work for the public defender’s office for criminal adults and juveniles in the mid-90s. The head deputy public defender would cover the DYFS cases and there were a few times he couldn’t do it so he’d have Steve fill in. As they grew, they started assigning cases to the local offices and it became something he got more involved in. At this point, Steve has about 40 cases. He says of the cases, “They’re like mini soap operas with no commercials. Little stories. When you read the stories, you say, ‘Let’s see what we have, drugs, corporal punishment … I don’t like the sex abuse cases, but have to deal with them.” His biggest frustration is receiving the discovery packet about two weeks prior to the hearing, only to be blindsided with new occurrences after reviewing it.
Mr. Kernan has been an incredible asset to CASA of CGS as he has recommended a referral for an advocate on at least six cases in the last five months. He values our court reports and often includes them in his position to the judge. With so many parties involved, it’s often easy to lose sight of the main issues, that being the child’s position, placements and well-being. The reason he requests a CASA is because he feels that by having a CASA on a case it, “provides a more in-depth look.”
Steve’s favorite superhero is “Superman One, because when she (Lois Lane) is in the car and she’s sinking, he goes around, spins around the world, and brings her back – that was touching.” He also favors James Bond because he shows the goodness of people.
The one thing Mr. Kernan would like to see in our communities is “for everyone get along with each other – no more drug abuse, crime – you shouldn’t have to lock your doors and windows because someone’s going to steal your TV set.” Mr. Kernan may seem a little tough, but his bark is worse than his bite. If you’re fortunate enough to have him throw a few jokes your way, nicely throw one back. He’s one of the good guys.
Do you know of a Community Superhero?
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