April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Randy Pierce and I were invited to address the Ole Miss GAL Certification CLE program not too long ago about “Professionalism and the Guardian ad Litem; A View from the Bench and Beyond.”

Here are the professionalism principles for GAL’s that we came up with. I hope they provide some food for thought for you GAL’s laboring in the vineyard, and some general standards for judges who deal with GAL’s.

1. Competence. A GAL is required to maintain the required certification. Beyond that, the GAL must maintain CLE and demonstrate knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation.

2. Promptness. Complies with the court’s deadlines and does everything possible to move the case forward. A GAL does not delay the cause without justification.

3. Diligence. Interviews all witnesses and reviews all relevant evidence to ensure that the appropriate action is taken for the best interest of the children. Investigates to discover any pertinent information not disclosed by the participants. A GAL does not neglect to perform the task assigned. Timely submits a written report addressing all relevant considerations.

4. Fairness. The GAL’s duty is to protect the best interest of the children, not to advocate for any of the litigant parties. The GAL must have no conflict of interest. The GAL maintains neutrality and the appearance of impartiality consistent with this duty.

5. Zeal in protecting the best interest of children. Pursues the best interest of the children actively through reasonably available means permitted by law and the rules of professional conduct.

6. Knowledge of the applicable law. Is current in the law applicable to the case, and develops legal authority to support the GAL report.

7. Candor with the court. Communicates with the court through properly noticed pleadings as to all matters affecting the best interest of the children, the cooperation of the parties, any impropriety, and need for a change in the role assigned.

8. Fidelity to the role assigned. Acts within the scope of the role assigned by the court.

9. Independence. Maintains and exercises independent judgment about the best interests of the children.

10. Willingness to accept appointments. Rule 6.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct requires that lawyers not seek to avoid appointments except under certain specified conditions. The fact that the appointment would be controversial or unpopular is not in and of itself a disqualifying factor.

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