Responsibilities of appointed guardians amended, advanced

The duties of a guardian appointed to represent juveniles in court would be specified by legislation advanced from general file March 17.

LB15, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, would require a guardian ad litem to follow guidelines established by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Responsibilities would include consulting with the assigned juvenile in person, attending all their hearings, limiting their own caseloads and submitting itemized billing statements. The bill also would permit guardians ad litem to be compensated on a per-case or multi-case contract basis.

Krist said interim studies have shown that not all guardians ad litem act in the best interest of the juveniles they represent. The bill would clarify what guardians are bound to do and make the guidelines enforceable, he said.

A Judiciary Committee amendment, adopted 36-0, would add an emergency clause and require the Supreme Court to codify the guidelines into court rules by July 1, 2015.

The amendment also would require a guardian to:
• consult with the assigned juvenile within two weeks of placement;
• conduct consultations every three months;
• submit written reports at dispositional, review or permanency planning hearings; and
• submit itemized statements for multi-case contracts.

Speaking in support of the amendment, Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell said committee members learned of cases in which guardians ad litem had not visited with children prior to representing them in court. The bill would make guardians more accountable, she said.

“This is a core responsibility of government,” Campbell said. “Children don’t have a voice. They have to depend on, in the courtroom, that the guardian ad litem speaks for them.”

Senators advanced the bill on a 35-0 vote.

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