Conference Materials

Annual Parental Defense and Office of Guardian Ad Litem Conference

April 11-12, 2019

The Doubletree Hotel, Park City, UT

Thursday, April 11, 2019

7:30- 7:45  Registration and Breakfast
7:45-8:00 Welcome and Business

Legislative Update Senator Todd Wieler

Senator Weiler has represented District 23 in the Utah Senate since 2012. He is an attorney by profession and is the Vice President and General Counsel for Logistics Specialties, Inc.

Senator Weiler will be presenting on the bills passed during the 2019 legislative session that most directly impact child welfare practice. 

9:30- 10:30

Understanding the Families First Act Diane Moore, Division of Child and Family Services Director

Diane Moore was chosen to lead the Division of Child and Family Services in 2017 after more than 25 years at the Department of Human Services. She began her career as a DCFS caseworker, and has since served in numerous roles including region director for the DCFS Salt Lake Valley Region, and later Director of the Office of Licensing. A licensed social service worker and graduate of Brigham Young University, Moore holds a Master of Public Administration degree. Her philosophy has always been to create safety and well being through strengthening families and to do everything possible to leave people and situations better than she found them. She is honored to be involved in such important work.

Diane will be presenting on the Families First Act, with particular focus on how it impacts parental defenders, and how PDA members can be prepared for important changes that will impact their practice as this monumental legislation moves forward.
10:00-10:15  Networking Break 

Families First Services Panel



"It's Not You, It's Me..." Breaking up with the "Jealous Mistress" by Ammon Nelson (Ethics hour)

The recent report created and distributed by the American Bar Association indicates that attorneys around the country are suffering from substance abuse, mental and emotional health issues, anxiety, stress, and secondary trauma. This CLE examines attorney obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct rules 1.1 Competence; 1.3 Diligence; and 1.4 Communication, and it will provide practice tips for complying with the ethics rules without sacrificing attorney health and wellness. It also will define stress, anxiety, and secondary trauma and provide practical techniques for managing stress and anxiety, techniques for defending against secondary trauma, and resources available to lawyers to improve their personal lives. 

Ammon is the owner of Ammon Nelson Law, PLLC, a two-attorney family law firm in Ogden, Utah. He has a background in a variety of legal fields, including divorce, custody, estate planning, parental defense, business law (both transactions and litigation), and general litigation. Ammon attended Weber State University for his undergraduate work and later graduated with honors from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.

During law school, Ammon received a Pro Bono Certificate for completing fifty hours of legal work for Utah Legal Services during law school by representing victims of domestic violence in Utah State Court. He was also a Senior Associate at the University Venture Fund, an 18-million-dollar fund where he reviewed and analyzed the documents for complex venture capital transactions, performed business and legal due diligence, and tracked the progress of a multi-million dollar portfolio company. Ammon received a CALI Award in his New Ventures class which dealt primarily with legal contract strategy in complex business and intellectual property transactions.

Ammon was on the board of the Weber/Davis Estate Planning Council and was vice president of a local BNI Group.  Ammon was nominated and selected as the Parental Defense Alliance New Public Defender of the Year for 2018. Ammon is licensed to represent clients in Utah State Court, Utah Federal District Court, Small Claims Court, Bankruptcy Court, and Justice Court.

Prior to forming Ammon Nelson Law, PLLC, Ammon was an associate attorney at Burton Law Firm and a law clerk at Smith Knowles in Ogden, Utah and Martin, Shudt, Wallace, DiLorenzo, and Johnson in New York.  

Ammon and his wife Calie recently started Attorney Alive, LLC, a company dedicated to creating resources for lawyers to not only be better lawyers, but live better lives. Their first book should be released in Summer 2019 along with a self-study CLE course for attorneys. They manage the instagram (@attorneyalive) and Facebook (@attorneyalive) feeds for Attorney Alive.

When Ammon is not helping others with their legal matters, he enjoys spending time with the most important people in his life, his wife and kids.  He also enjoys playing basketball, golf, and tennis, and traveling having recently returned from a three-week trip to Europe.

12:15-1:30 LUNCH

Explanation of Breakout Schedule and room assignments 

Breaktout A: How to Use the State's Expert to Benefit Your Client by Dr. Beisinger

Dr. Biesinger completed his undergraduate work at Brigham Young University, where he majored in psychology. He then attended graduate school at the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Missouri, where he received his master's and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology. He returned to Utah to complete an internship focusing on therapy and psychological evaluations with children, adolescents, and adults. After his internship, he completed a post-doctorate residency, focusing primarily on treating and evaluating various psychological difficulties seen in children, adolescents, and adults. He works with clients of all ages in therapy. He also administers a wide variety of psychological evaluations to individuals of all ages, including psychological evaluations for diagnostic clarification, parental fitness evaluations, neuropsychological evaluations, and psychosexual evaluations. Dr. Biesinger is married and has six children. In his spare time he enjoys golfing, grilling food, and hanging out with his family, not necessarily in that order.

Breaktout B: How to Use Your Expert Witness to Attack the State's Case by Anna Trupp and Doug Goldsmith


First Breakout Session 


Second Breakout Session


transfer back to ballroom

 4:00 -5:00

Caselaw Update and Appellate Roster Training by Mary Westby, Staff Attorney for Utah Court of Appeals, and Nancy Sylvester, AOC 

Mary Westby graduated from the S.J. Quinney College of Law in 1998. After five years in private practice, she became a staff attorney for the Utah Court of Appeals in 2004. She has received two Meritorious Service Awards for her work in staffing the Judicial Council's Study Committee on Indigent Criminal Defense. She is a member of the Utah Appellate Rules Committee. As a staff attorney, she works closely with the Clerk of the Court and with all of the judges on the court of appeals.

Ms. Westby will be presenting a summary of cases handed down in the past year that impact the practice of child welfare in Utah.


Friday, April 12, 2019

7:30-7:45 Registration and Breakfast



KEYNOTE ADDRESS by Judge Robert Thorne

Judge William A. Thorne, Jr. was formerly a judge on the State of Utah Court of Appeals and in the Third District Court. He has served as a tribal court judge in 10 states and is the former president of the National Indian Justice Center, a non-profit that trains tribal court personnel around the country. Nationally known as a leading expert on policies and programs to support children, particularly Native American children and their families, Judge Thorne is currently chair of the Board of Directors for Child Trends, Inc., a premiere non-profit, child-centered research group. He is also a board member of WestEd, Inc., a non-profit focused on excellence and equity in education and a member of the Board of Trustees for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. A former member of the board of directors for National CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a non-profit group that provides representation for abused and neglected children in court and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a non-profit seeking to improve the level of research and practice related to adoptions and the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), Judge Thorne has also served as a member of the American Bar Association's Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children and was a member of the PEW Commission of Children in Foster Care. Judge Thorne is a graduate of the University of Santa Clara and Stanford Law School. He was formerly chair of the Utah Juvenile Justice Task Force of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, vice-chair of the Utah Board of Youth Corrections, member of the Salt Lake County Domestic Violence Advisory Committee, and a member of the steering committee for the Judicial Council's Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Fairness.



Explanation of Breakout Sessions and Room Asssignments 


Breakout Options

A.  Coordinating Appellate Strategy Across the State by Rob Latham, Sara Pfrommer, Anthony Saunders, and Jordan Putnam

Participants on this panel all had significant appellate victories in the past year. They will be discussing the strategies they utilized in their appeals, as well as helping foster discussion about how parental defenders can better coordinate our appellate efforts across the state.

Sara Pfrommer graduated from UCLA Law School in 1978 and spent many years as a big-firm litigator in Los Angeles. She moved to Utah in 2000 and became involved in the parental defense arena through a good friend who had gotten caught up in the child welfare system. She is now an appellate specialist and winner of the PDA Appellate Lawyer of the Year Award in 2014.

J. Robert Latham graduated from the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah and was admitted to the Utah State Bar in 1994. He has contracted with Washington County to represent parents, guardians, and children in its juvenile courts since 2014.




Anthony Saunders has been an associate with The Ault Firm, P.C. since 2017. His practice is mainly dedicated to family law, though he also maintains a firm grasp on various aspects of criminal law, juvenile law, and probate law, including guardianships.

As a child, Anthony's family moved to Ogden. He attended the Weber State University, and received his undergraduate degree in Political Science and attended Western Michigan Law School. Upon obtaining his Juris Doctorate degree from the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, he hightailed it back to Utah as fast as possible! The lure of being near family and familiar surroundings was enough to pull him back to the Salt Lake area to start his legal career.

Jordan Putnam is the current President of the PDA Board of Directors and area representative for the 3rd District. Jordan is a native of San Diego. Jordan moved to Utah to attend Brigham Young University, and law school at the University of Utah.

Jordan is passionate about parental defense and joined Lokken & Associates in 2013. His practice also includes divorce/custody and criminal defense.
When he isn't in the courtroom, he enjoys hiking, skiing, and picking up after his kids






B.  Practice Pointers by Mary Anne Ellis, Leslie Galacher, Michael Rawson, and Thomas Sitterud

One of our biggest requests from PDA members every year on training topics is for more "war stories" and practical pointers for parental defenders to put in their toolboxes. Each of these presenters are highly respected by their peers, and will be engaging in a discussion about real-life examples and innovative ideas of how to improve practice. 

Mary Anne Ellis graduated from the University of Vermont in 2004 with a B.S. in Business Administration with a focus on Finance and continued on to Seattle University School of Law where she graduated cum laude in May 2007.   After returning to her home town of Ogden, Mary Anne opened a solo practice in December 2007, focusing her practice on divorce, paternity, custody, guardianship and child welfare.  In 2010, Mary Anne realized her goal of advocating for children by becoming a Private Guardian ad Litem and continues to serve in that capacity today.  Mary Anne has been a Weber County public defender since April 2013 and  was honored to receive the Parental Defense Alliance of Utah Trial Advocacy of the Year award in 2017.  


Michael Rawson grew up as an Air Force ‘brat' attending about 20 different schools across the country. He graduated from BYU in Journalism. Michael worked for 30 years as a television news reporter in Salt Lake City for KUTV and KTVX and acquired four Rocky Mountain Emmys along the way.
He went to law school at age 50. In 2002, he received his J.D. from Western State University School of Law in Fullerton, California. After passing the Utah Bar, Michael moved to St. George and began his second career. He works mostly in family law, criminal defense and child welfare. Michael has been a parental defender since 2003. He finds it has been a very satisfying challenge. In 2011, Michael received the PDA's Trial Attorney of the Year award.
On the personal side, he finally got married at age 60 to Miriam who he had met 35 years before at BYU. Michael is an avid reader of non-fiction, mostly history, and considers himself an amateur baseball historian.

Thomas Sitterud graduated cum laude from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan in 2009. He co-founded Oliver & Sitterud Law Office in 2010 and continues to manage his practice. He currently serves as a juvenile court public defender in several rural counties in Eastern Utah.

When he's not at the office or in court, Thomas is sure to be found hanging out with his family consisting of his gorgeous wife Brayci and children Porter, Maycin and Linc.  If he's not at home with his family, Thomas will probably be found coaching his children's sport's teams or volunteering in community events.  He is crazy about all things sports, especially when it comes to Emery High School athletics, BYU athletics, the LA Dodgers, and the Philadelphia Eagles.  Thomas also enjoys hunting, spending time in the outdoors, and playing guitar.


C. Undestanding the Adversary by Nicole Lowe, Nicole Salazar-Hall, and  Brian Hart

What would it be like to really get into the mind of your opponent? Each of these presenters worked for a different office within the child welfare system before "seeing the light" and moving to parental defense work. They will be sharing insights that their professional experiences gave them on how to effectively handle your adversary, both in and out of the courtroom.

Nicole McBride served as an Assistant Attorney General for the Child Protection Division from 2008 until 2018. While attending law school, she worked as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and as a law clerk for the Attorney General's office. Before attending law school, she worked for the Division of Child and Family Services as both a Child Protective Services investigator and as an ongoing/permanency worker for three years. In 2016, Nicole organized and opened the Homeless Youth Legal Clinic(HYLC) in partnership with the Volunteers of America, Utah. The HYLC serves homeless youth, many who have aged out of State's custody, providing them with free legal services including education, representation and consultation five days a week. In August 2018, Nicole opened her own firm and acquired a contract to provide parental defense in the Juvenile court in the Second District. She also takes private and conflict Guardian ad Litem cases, adoption cases, and private termination cases. In her spare time, Nicole runs ultramarathons and is an author of her memoir Never Let Me Go, which tells of her experiences living on the streets of Salt Lake City from the ages of 13-16.

Nicole Salazar-Hall practices civil litigation with a focus on domestic law, representing individuals in domestic cases, juvenile court child welfare cases, and actions challenging DCFS agency findings. Nicole assists clients with divorce, custody, high net worth asset division, parentage, adoption, child welfare, minor child guardianship matters, and DCFS agency actions. Nicole has worked with hundreds of clients in juvenile court throughout the State of Utah both prosecuting and defending abuse/neglect petitions. Nicole has appeared before multiple legislative committees regarding child welfare and domestic legislation. Additionally, since 2015, Nicole has been a lecturer regarding family law issues and continuing legal education classes. Nicole is also an active volunteer, working with Utah State Bar Indian Law Section (Section Officer); Centro De La Familia De Utah (Board of Trustees); and the State of Utah Division of Child and Family Services - Child Welfare Improvement Council and DCFS Oversight Subcommittee Co-Chair; and the Salt Lake City Human Rights Commission.

D. Mental Health Assessments by Brent Hall and (speaker)


Breakout Session 1

10:30-11:30  Breakout Session 2 

Mid-Morning Break and Awards


Professionalism and Civility Challenge by Grant Dickinson 

Grant Dickinson has been a member of the Parental Defense Alliance since 2010, and served as the President of the PDA Board of Directors from 2016-2018. He is now an emeritus member of the board. Grant's practice focuses mainly in Utah County and like many of our members focuses on Parental Defense, Criminal Defense, and Family Law related cases. Grant achieved the Parental Defense Alliance Appellate Attorney of the Year award in 2012. While studying at Willamette University, Grant served each year on the executive board of Willamette University's Public Interest Law Project. Prior to Law School, Grant was employed at the Fourth District Court as Deputy Clerk in Commissioner Patton's Court and also as a Deputy Probation Officer.


Pick up boxed lunches