RULE 17. JUVENILE COURT LAY GUARDIAN AD LITEM
(1) Possess written credentials establishing that the person has:
(A) a bachelor's degree, preferably in a human service, education or related field; or
(B) an associate degree in an academic field related to child care, child development, or children's services and at least three years of experience in the delivery or supervision of child care or children's services, child development services, or in the education of children.
(2) Complete a minimum of 18 hours of specialized lay guardian ad litem training;
(3) Complete an additional 18 hours of approved guardian ad litem training every three years;
(4) Possess communication skills necessary to successfully conduct an interview, prepare a written report, and make an oral presentation; and
(5) Have no criminal conviction or substantiated instance of child abuse or neglect.
(b) Responsibilities of a lay guardian ad litem.
A lay guardian ad litem must:
(1) advocate for the best interests of the child;
(2) exercise independent judgment, gather information, participate in negotiations, and monitor the case, including:
(A) reviewing relevant documents; including social services, psychological, psychiatric, medical, therapy, and education records;
(B) meeting with and observing the child in the home setting or placement;
(C) interviewing parents, siblings, caregivers, and other interested parties with relevant information to the case.
(3) complete work in a professional manner by participating in meetings impacting the life of a child, including attending all court proceedings related to the deprivation matter, child-family team meetings, settlement negotiations, appropriate school meetings, and other activities as may be directed by the court in the child's best interest for pre- or post-adjudication matters.
(4) obtain releases of information as required and observe all statutes, rules and regulations, regarding confidentiality. A lay guardian ad litem must not disclose or participate in the disclosure of information to any person, except as necessary to perform the guardian ad litem duties specifically provided by law.
(5) prepare a written report regarding the child's best interest, including conclusions with specific recommendations as appropriate to the facts of the case -- psychological, psychiatric, parenting and chemical dependency evaluations or services or treatment deemed necessary -- this report must be submitted to the juvenile court as directed by the court, and upon receipt copies must be provided to all parties by the juvenile court.
(6) treat all individuals with dignity, respect and sensitivity to religious background, racial or ethnic heritage, cultural, gender/orientation and socio-economic diversity.
(7) comply with all state laws regarding the reporting of child abuse or neglect.
(c) Rights and powers of a lay guardian ad litem.
(1) Court Proceedings. A lay guardian ad litem must attend all court proceedings unless excused by the court and must testify when requested. Except as allowed under Rule 5(d), a lay guardian ad litem may not call a witness, question a witness, file a motion, or act as a legal advocate.
(2) Interim Report. A lay guardian ad litem may submit an interim report and request a case status review. The interim report must be served on each party, who may serve and file a response within ten days after service of the report. The court may consider the interim report and any response without oral argument or evidentiary hearing. If the court finds grounds for a case status review, the court must set a hearing.
(d) Lay guardian ad litem review board.
(1) Membership. The lay guardian ad litem review board consists of seven members: a chair appointed by the Chief Justice; one referee; one state's attorney; one parents' counsel; one representative from social services, one representative from juvenile court and one lay guardian. Board staff are one person from the guardian ad litem program and one person from the Court Administrator's office.
(2) Terms. Board members are appointed by the Chief Justice for three-year terms and may serve no more than three consecutive three-year terms. Of the members initially appointed and as determined by lot at the first meeting, two will serve for one year, two will serve for two years, and three will serve for three years. Subject to the three term limit, each member is eligible for reappointment and serves until the member's successor is appointed.
(3) Board Responsibilities. The board, through panels established under this rule, must receive and review complaints concerning the performance and conduct of lay guardians providing services under this rule.
(4) Complaints - Procedure for Review.
(A) All complaints must be submitted in writing to the chair of the board. The complaint must include facts underlying the complaint, must specify the misconduct that is the subject of the complaint, and must be signed by the complainant.
(B) Upon receipt of a written complaint, the chair of the board must determine if the complaint is with regard to a pending case in which lay guardian ad litem services are being provided. If the complaint involves lay guardian ad litem conduct in a pending case, the chair must inform the complainant that the complaint may only be addressed before the court that is hearing the pending case, either by seeking removal of the lay guardian or by contesting the information or recommendation contained in the lay guardian ad litem's report or testimony. In pending cases, review of the complaint and communications with the complainant must be handled by the chair of the board in a manner that assures the judge or referee presiding in the case remains uninformed about the complaint. If the complaint concerns conduct unrelated to a pending case, the following procedures apply:
(i) The chair of the board must review the complaint to determine whether the allegations, if true, have merit. If the allegations are determined to be without merit, the complaint will not be reviewed further and the chair must notify the complainant of the disposition.
(ii) If the chair of the board determines the allegations in the complaint, if true, have merit, the complaint must be referred to a three-member panel of the board appointed by the chair. The panel must provide a copy of the complaint to the lay guardian and request a written response from the lay guardian ad litem within 30 days of receipt of the request. The request must identify specific issues in the complaint to which the panel desires a response. The lay guardian ad litem must provide a copy of the response to the complainant. The panel may, as circumstances warrant, request that the complainant and the lay guardian ad litem meet with the panel to review the allegations in the complaint.
(5) Misconduct. In reviewing a complaint, the panel must consider whether the allegations in the complaint indicate any of the following forms of misconduct:
(A) failure to fulfill responsibilities required under Rule 17(c);
(B) violation of the code of conduct for lay guardians, which is included and incorporated in Rule 17 as an appendix;
(C) misrepresentation of qualifications to serve as a lay guardian ad litem;
(D) violation of state or local laws or court rules; or
(E) taking or failing to take any other action that would reasonably place the suitability of the person to serve as a lay guardian ad litem in question.
(6) Findings and Dispositions. In considering the complaint and the lay guardian ad litem's written response, the panel must make findings regarding each of the specific issues in the complaint to which the panel requested a response. The findings must indicate that either there is no merit to the issue based on the lay guardian ad litem's response or that there is merit to the issue. The panel must determine whether the issues found to have merit indicate any form of misconduct identified under Rule 17(e)(4). The panel may take any of the following actions: issue a written reprimand, refer the lay guardian ad litem to additional training, require that the lay guardian ad litem be assigned a mentor for a specified period of time, or direct that the lay guardian ad litem be removed from the roster. The panel must take into consideration any prior complaints that resulted in the imposition of any of the identified actions. The complainant and the lay guardian ad litem must be notified in writing of the panel's disposition of the complaint. If the panel directs removal from the roster, the panel may specify the manner and time frame within which the person may apply for placement at a later time on the roster.
(7) Confidentiality. A complaint and any associated records are confidential unless the panel has determined under Rule 17(e)(5) that the complaint has merit. Confidential records may be disclosed only in response to a court order.
(8) Time frames for Disposition. Complaints must be resolved within 25 days of receipt of the complaint if the complaint involves a pending case. All other complaints must be resolved within 120 days of receipt of the complaint. These time frames may be extended by the chair of the board upon a finding by the chair that good cause exists for an extension.
(e) Lay guardian ad litem training. The state court administrator must provide for regular training programs to satisfy the qualification requirements under Rule 17(a)(2) and (3). The state court administrator must provide for the development and maintenance of a lay guardian ad litem manual to serve as a resource for those providing services under Rule 17 and as a basis for lay guardian ad litem training programs.
Rule 17 was adopted effective March 1, 2010.
N.D.C.C. § 27-20-48 requires appointment of a lay guardian ad litem for a child in a juvenile proceeding "if the child has no parent, guardian, or custodian appearing on the child's behalf or their interests conflict with the child's or in any other case in which the interests of the child require a guardian." N.D.C.C. § 50-25.1-08, requires appointment of a guardian ad litem in every case involving an abused or neglected child that results in a judicial proceeding.
SOURCES: Juvenile Policy Board Minutes of February 20, 2009; December 5, 2008; August 8, 2008; May 9, 2008; February 29, 2008; September 21, 2007; April 20, 2007. Joint Procedure Committee Minutes of May 21-22, 2009.
CONSIDERED: N.D.C.C. §§ 27-20-48, 50-25.1-08.
CROSS REFERENCE: N.D.R.Ct. 8.7 (Guardian ad Litem).