Lorri Mott (Compton), called by her colleagues a tireless advocate for children, died unexpectedly Thursday at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Belleville.
Mott, 48, of Smithton, served as guardian ad litem for hundreds of St. Clair County children in family and juvenile court. A guardian ad litem represents the child in such proceedings.
"Lorri connected amazingly with kids. She could get them to say things," said Belleville attorney Don Urban, who worked with Mott on many cases. "She pulled information out of children and made them feel comfortable. When she was their lawyer, those children knew that they had a friend sitting at the table speaking for them."
Mott passed the bar exam in 1990. Mott is survived by her husband, Timothy Compton, whom she married in 1991.
She specialized in adoptions and family law, including contested adoptions where one parent opposes the termination their parental rights so the child can be adopted by a new spouse.
"These are incredibly painful cases," Urban said.
Urban recalled that he once represented a father who was in jail and opposed the impending adoption of his child to the child's mother's new husband. Mott represented the mother.
The father was on the stand and she was questioning him about his criminal history, Urban said. Urban knew about the criminal history in that county, but Mott checked surrounding counties for convictions and began to question the father about them.
"He looked at her and said, 'I guess you want to know about this conviction, too, in that county?'" Urban said. "I'm sure she didn't know about one, but she said that she hadn't gotten there yet."
The guardian ad litems in a case can interview the child, the parents, caseworkers, teachers or anyone else they feel can help a judge determine what's best for the child.
"It's a very difficult job. These cases are tearjerkers," Urban said. "You need to help a judge make decisions about a child's future."
Mott's work as a guardian ad litem impressed one judge.
"She worked as a GAL for years. GALs are very important in family and juvenile cases," said Associate Judge Heinz Rudolph. "The guardians know the history. They know the family. They know the child. So, you know when you asked Lorri what's in the best interest of the child, you know she was really being giving you a good answer."
Tom Cannady, president of the St. Clair County Bar Association, worked with Mott putting together continuing education seminars for lawyers. He said Mott was very even-keeled, fair and unbiased, making her well-suited to represent children as a guardian ad litem.
"When an attorney is appointed as GAL eyes and ears of the court to assist the judge in the evaluation of a case objectively," Cannady said. "She always did an excellent job and extensive job, even when she couldn't be assured of a fee."