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Legally Speaking


Issue: June, 2005
Author: Holly Hansen

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Comprehensive Guardian Ad Litem Program Enacted by 2005 Legislature

Panel of Guardians ad Litem
Guardian ad Litem Expression of Interest Form
Rule 106 - GAL

One of the last pieces of legislation to be enacted during the 2005 legislative session was House Bill 314 – Guardians Ad Litem (GALs). The bill takes effect July 1, 2005, and establishes a state funded program “to reimburse attorneys providing legal representation as guardians ad litem in child protection cases under W.S. 14-3-101 through 14-3-440, of children in need of supervision cases under W.S. 14-6-401 through 14-6-440, or termination of parental rights actions brought as a result of a child protection or a children in need of supervision action.” The bill carries an appropriation of $2.1 million. The funds appropriated for this program may only be used for the purposes enumerated in the bill.

Wyoming’s 23 counties are currently responsible for covering the cost of GALs. Under the bill, counties will have the opportunity to participate in this matching program with the state. The Wyoming Supreme Court is responsible for implementing the administrative portion of the bill and will be working with the counties to establish the reimbursement program.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Representative Colin Simpson (R House District 24):

“I sponsored the GAL bill individually because I felt it was an important issue to address as quickly as possible. The Joint Judiciary Committee had been working on this issue for a couple of years and despite a willingness to sponsor a bill as a committee bill, the bill that the Joint Judiciary Committee approved was an appropriations bill that ran into procedural problems. I did not want to see the issue languish another year. Allowing the counties to leverage state funds for GALs is a great step forward in providing legal services to children in Wyoming using GALs who have met the standards and have received annual training. I sincerely hope that all counties participate and that the program improves children’s representation.”

In anticipation of the July 1st effective date, the District Judges’ Judicial Conference and the Board of Judicial Policy and Administration have been working on a draft of a new rule, Uniform Rules for the District Courts 106 (Attorney Guardians ad Litem Representation Standard for Appointments in Juvenile Court). The proposed rule will include standards for the legal representation and training requirements for attorney GALs seeking payment under this program. A draft of the proposed rule was circulated to interested parties on May 3rd. The Board of Judicial Policy and Administration took final action on the rule at its June 1st meeting.

Under the proposed rule, attorney GALs would be required to meet an initial training requirement of ten hours of child related training accredited by the Wyoming State Bar. The initial ten hours of training must have been earned after July 1, 2003. Attorney GALs who are presently handling ongoing cases will have until December 31, 2005, to meet the requirement, in order to be reimbursed under the GAL bill. In addition, attorney GALs will be required annually to obtain five hours of continuing legal education that enhances an attorney’s knowledge of child representation issues.

Several training opportunities are already being planned. The Children’s Justice Project and the Wyoming Supreme Court will sponsor a training program in Casper on June 28th and 29th. In addition, three sessions will be offered during the Wyoming State Bar Annual Meeting in September 2005. Subsequent training opportunities will be provided. For more information, contact Tara Ackerman at the Children’s Justice Project -- (307) 777-7629.

Any attorney who desires to be considered for appointment as an attorney GAL will be required to submit a written application to the Wyoming Supreme Court, State Court Administrator. The application form will be available from the Wyoming Supreme Court or on the State Bar’s website.

When this program takes effect July 1, 2005, it will be a credit to the Legislature’s diligence and hard work. Motivated by a desire to ensure that children are adequately represented in court processes, the District Judges’ Conference, the Board of Judicial Policy and Administration, the Wyoming Supreme Court, the Wyoming State Bar, the Department of Family Services and the Legislature partnered in developing and establishing this important program.

Holly Hansen is currently the State Court Administrator with the Wyoming Supreme Court. She earned a BA and MPA from the University of Colorado and has been employed by the State of Wyoming since 1978, 10 years with the Legislative Service Office and 17 years with the Wyoming Supreme Court. She chairs the State Drug Court Panel and serves on the Children's Justice Project, Governor's Domestic Violence Council and the State Historical Records Advisory Council.

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