Conference Materials

Annual Conference of the Parental Defense Alliance of Utah

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

8:00 - 9:00

Legislative Update by Senator Todd Wieler

Senator Weiler has represented District 23 in the United 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.

9:00 - 10:00

Putting Families First: Navigating Utah's Evolving Child Welfare System by 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.

Through a lens of shared success, this presentation will follow the trajectory of child welfare services in Utah, including a look at current philosophy and the implementation of the new Family First Prevention Services Act

10:00 - 10:15 am

Networking Break

10:15 - 11:15 am

Where The Rubber Meets the Road: Clients in Treatment and the Family First Prevention Services Act by Adam Cogen, Lisa Heaton, and Rosie Holmes

This panel of representatives for substance abuse treatment providers contracted with the State of Utah under the FFPSA will discuss what parental defenders need to know in order to maximize treatment benefits for clients.

Adam Cohen is the CEO of Odyssey House of Utah, a non-profit behavioral health organization serving individuals and families affected by substance use and mental health disorders through a full continuum of behavioral health care and primary care services. Mr. Cohen earned a bachelor degree in economics and a master degree in business administration. He has worked in addiction treatment since 2000 and has been CEO of Odyssey House since 2009. Mr. Cohen is the President of the Utah Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. He also serves as a board member on Treatment Communities of America, Utah Department of Health Medical Care Advisory Council and Intermountain Healthcare's LDS Hospital Community Advisory Council. Previously, Mr. Cohen was the Chair of Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, Chair of the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice, and a commission member of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

Lisa Heaton is a licensed therapist with 18 years of experience at House of Hope. She is a graduate of Southern Utah University and the University of Utah. Previously she worked in children's mental health for ten years and specialized in working with children and families, especially in reunification, before becoming the Executive Director of House of Hope.

Rosie Holmes earned her Bachelor of Arts in social work from Weber Stated University and her Master of Social Work from the University of Utah while raising 3 beautiful daughters as a single parent. She is licensed by the State of Utah as a clinical social worker (LCSW). She received the Phi Alpha Society award due to Academic Achievements and the Golden Key Honor Society Award. Rosie earned a minor in Spanish and has enjoyed working with the Hispanic population in Ogden. She started her career as a social worker at DCFS working as a foster care caseworker, family preservation worker, and Domestic Violence specialist. While working at DCFS she received the Northern Regional Caseworker Award. Currently she supervises a team of 10 clinicians at Weber Human Services, and participates as a clinician and supervisor on the Weber County Family Drug Court. She has supervised Tranquility Home Residential for women with substance abuse disorder for the past 7 years. Rosie was born and raised in Naples, Italy. She came to the USA when she was 24 years old. She currently teaches Italian at Weber State University.


11:15 - 12:15

"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


1:30 - 1:40

Explanation of Breakout Schedule and room assignments 

Breakout 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: "Child Therapists as expert witnesses; Providing clear expectations for assessments and helping them prepare for testimony." by Dr. Doug Goldsmith

Dr. Goldsmith has provided therapy to families and children for over 30 years. He is currently in private practice where he provides family focused mental health services to families with a range of concerns including high conflict divorce, parental alienation, trauma, and attachment issues. He is a certified Parent Coordinator and is a recognized expert in the areas of attachment, trauma, reunification, and parental alienation. Prior to entering private practice he served as the Executive Director of The Children's Center, a private, not for profit mental health center for families with young children.

1:45 - 2:45

First Breakout Session

2:50 - 3:50

Second Breakout Session

3:50 - 4:00

Transfer back to ballroom

4:00 - 5:00

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

Margaret P. Lindsay is an Assistant Director in the Utah County Public Defender Association with responsibility over the Juvenile and Appeals Divisions. Her practice centers around juvenile and appellate public defense work. She also spent several years in private practice in Provo with the firm Esplin & Weight where she also did work in the areas of criminal defense, adoptions and family law in addition to her juvenile and appellate work. She graduated from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School. She currently sits on the Indigent Defense Commission, the Board of Directors for the Utah Parental Defense Alliance, and on the 4th District Juvenile Court's Child Welfare Interagency Council and Family Drug Court Committee. In the past she has served on the governing board of the Utah County Boys & Girls Club, and as a member of the Utah Supreme Court's Committee on the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure. She is also licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court.

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.

Nancy Sylvester is Associate General Counsel for the Utah State Courts. She serves on or as staff to numerous committees, including the Appellate Representation Committee, and reports regularly to the Utah Judicial Council and the Utah Supreme Court. Nancy also has a litigation practice in state and federal courts where she represents court staff and judges. Although she is a native Californian, she and her family now consider Utah their home.

Margaret and Nancy will be presenting on the Appellate Roster and its impact on the practice of parental defense.

Friday, April 12, 2019

7:30 - 7:45

Registration and Breakfast

7:30 - 7:45


8:00 - 9:20

KEYNOTE ADDRESS- Lessons Learned: What I Wish I Had Known Before I Started 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.

Judge Thorne's remarks will include a brief discussion of the evolution of child welfare, the impact of the current system, and the new opportunities for better outcomes. Included will be a discussion of brain science, trauma and other research related to practical approaches that lead to better outcomes for children and their families. Finally, Judge Thorne hopes to engage the audience in accepting a challenge to chart new and better outcomes - and break the inter-generational cycles of foster care. In fact, an alternative title he offered for his presentation was "Mistakes I made as a judge that I hope you will redeem"

9:20 - 9:30

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, Michael Rawson, Jeff Ross, 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.

Jeff Ross is an attorney with the law firm of Stowell, Crayk & Bown. Jeff received his bachelor's degree in Law & Constitutional Studies from Utah State University in 2006 and his law degree from the University of Utah in 2011, graduating with high honors. During law school, Jeff served as the Executive Symposium Editor for the Utah Law Review and interned for Justice Parrish and Justice Durrant on the Utah Supreme Court. Jeff has a general law practice in Vernal with an emphasis in immigration, family law, criminal defense and juvenile court matters. Jeff has held a juvenile court public defense contract in Vernal since 2013 and has been a member of the Parental Defense Alliance of Utah since 2014. In 2016, the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice awarded Jeff the Youth Advocate of the Year Award.

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.

Brian Hart has spent the last 8+ years as a Guardian ad Litem attorney and has loved wearing the white hat in court. He has spent a majority of his 14+ years in the law in juvenile court, part of that time representing indigent parents as a public defender. He has domestic mediation experience as a mediator and is returning to the foray of private practice, specifically in Family Law. He enjoys mountain bike riding, cycling, and loves conferences.

D. Mental Health Assessments by Brent Hall, Mike Forsburg, and Nate Roman

This panel will be discussing mental health assessments through their individual lenses as a parental defender (Brent Hall), Assistant Attorney General (Nate Roman), and Guardian ad Litem (Mike Forsberg).

Mike Forsberg completed his undergraduate studies at Utah State University, receiving bachelors degrees in Philosophy and Spanish with a Math minor. He received his J.D. from the University of Utah in 2007 where he was a Leary Scholar and was awarded First Place Federal Bar Association, Utah Chapter - Essay Contest: "Should the Federal Guidelines Be Eliminated?" He has worked With the Office of Guardian ad Litem for over ten years in both the First and Second District offices.

Nate Roman is a native of Utah. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Utah and law school at Florida Coastal Law School in Jacksonville Florida. Nate also studied Alternative Dispute Resolution in Italy.
Before law school Nate worked at the legislature doing lobbying work for a few years and then worked as a juvenile probation officer for Juvenile Justice Services for almost 4 years. After law school Nate was in private practice for a year before joining the Office of the Guardian ad Litem, where he worked for 3 years. Nate has worked in child protection at the AG's office since 2013.
Nate is active with the Children's Justice Center and sits on the advisory board and he takes a lot of pride in being able to give back to the community.
When not in the courtroom, Nate enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his family. Nate is an avid skier, and also enjoys paddle boarding at Pineview Dam, biking and hiking on Utah trails, and is glad to make Utah home.

Brent Hall practices civil litigation with a focus on family law at the law firm of Prince, Yeates & Geldzahler. Brent also serves as a Private Guardian ad Litem in district court matters, as well as a conflict Guardian ad Litem in Juvenile court matters. Brent has practiced in Utah since 2004, having previously served as a Staff Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake and as a Public Defender for Parents before the Juvenile Court in Child Welfare matters. Brent is a past member of the Utah Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on the Rules of Juvenile Procedure (2007-2018) and the Third District Court's Family Dependency Drug Court Executive Management Committee (2007-2015). Brent currently serves on the Utah State Bar's Family Law Section Executive Committee and volunteers with the House of Hope (Board of Trustees) and the Father's and Families Coalition of Utah (Executive Board). Brent has presented on family law issues for organizations including the Utah State Bar, the Utah Court Improvement Program, CASA, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and the Parental Defense Alliance of Utah.

9:30 - 10:30

Breakout Session 1

10:30 - 11:30

Breakout Session 2

11:30 - 11:45

Mid-morning break and awards

11:45 - 12:45

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.

12:45 - 1:15

Pick up boxed lunches