Richard Ducote, Esq.
Licensed in Louisiana (1978) and Pennsylvania (2009), Richard Ducote has been one of the nation’s leading child abuse/domestic violence litigators and law reformers of the last 38 years. Immediately following his graduation from law school, he created a specialized program to train and provide attorneys for abused and neglected children in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court. That project, which developed the Tulane University School of Law’s Juvenile Law Clinic, was one of only four in the country nationally recognized by the Federal Government for its innovative improvements to the court system. During the early 1980’s, Richard Ducote served as an appointed special district attorney in 19 Louisiana parishes (counties) where he tried child abuse and termination of parental rights cases in 40 courts.
As a result of Mr. Ducote’s efforts in the courtroom, social service agency offices, and the legislature, for the first time the Louisiana foster care system moved hundreds of forgotten children into adoptive homes. In 1984 he began his nationwide focus on complex child custody cases involving domestic violence and child abuse, eventually resulting in pro hac vice appearances in over 40 states. In1991, he drafted for successful enactment the Louisiana Post-Separation Family Violence Relief Act (La. R.S. 9:361-369). This was the first state law barring abusive parents from serving as custodians and forcing them to pay all costs and attorney’s fees. This law, which has been called model legislation by Harvard Law Review, has been replicated in many states and foreign countries. Mr. Ducote has written over a dozen other child welfare/child custody statutes passed in Louisiana and other states. He has been an ardent critic of due process flaws in family courts, inappropriate delegations of authority to guardians ad litem, incompetent mental health evaluators, and the use of junk science theories in custody cases.
He was appointed to the Clinical Psychiatry faculty at LSU Medical Center in New Orleans, and regularly conducts mandated certification training for California custody evaluators. He has served as a trainer and presenter at many national, state, and local programs sponsored by the American Bar Association, the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Institute on Violence, Abuse & Trauma, state and national domestic violence coalitions, child welfare agencies, and various law schools. His work has resulted in honors and awards from Justice for Children, The National Association of Social Workers, the Young Lawyers Division of the ABA, the LSU School of Social Work, the Louisiana Foster Parent Association, and the California Protective Parents Association.
Mr. Ducote was featured in the 2005 PBS Documentary Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories, as well as in Small Justice: Little Justice in America’s Family Courts. He has been quoted in articles in Newsweek, Oprah Magazine, Parade Magazine, Money Magazine, as well as in many newspapers around the country. New Orleans Magazine named him one of the top lawyers in the city. In addition to being a Martindale-Hubbell “A-V” attorney since his first rating in 1988, he is also admitted to the bars of the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Louisiana, the Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas, the Northern District of Ohio, the Western District of Pennsylvania, and the District of Colorado. In January 2011, Mr. Ducote was awarded an LL.M. degree in Child & Family Law from Loyola Chicago School of Law, where he recently taught a course on advanced issues in domestic relations law addressing child abuse, domestic violence, and family court flaws.
Erica Burns was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 2006 after graduating from Duquesne University School of Law, where she served on the Domestic Violence Awareness Committee as well as the Women’s Law Association. While in law school, she interned for a local magistrate judge, worked for the Community Justice Project, and assisted the Neighborhood Legal Services Association in domestic abuse cases. She is admitted to the bars of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the District of Maryland.
Since 2006, Erica Burns has been admitted pro hac vice in nine states in child abuse/domestic violence cases. Ms. Burns has conducted training for Pennsylvania Action Against Rape, and regularly volunteers for the Custody Conciliation Pro Bono Project, the Family Law Project, the Pro Bono Protection From Abuse Referral Program, and Big Sisters.
Wife and mother of 2, Lisa McDonough began working for Richard Ducote in August of 2008 as a legal assistant. She began her career with Mr. Ducote primarily maintaining client files and answering the phones. As her experience in the office has grown, she has become responsible for interviewing potential new clients, handling all clerical duties, and has most recently been acting in a “paralegal” capacity by assisting in the preparation of legal documents.
Prior to her employment with Mr. Ducote, Lisa held several jobs in retail, banking, and travel in an effort to supplement her husband’s income while at the same time being home for her two children. Lisa believes in service to the community and has volunteered at her local animal shelter and in her church’s homeless ministry. She loves children and has been involved with the youth group ministries at church. Working for Richard has been her most fulfilling job. She truly enjoys being part of a team that strives to protect abuse victims by providing them with the best legal advice possible.