Guardian ad litem duties outlined in bill

The responsibilities of guardians ad litem would be clarified under a bill heard by members of the Judiciary Committee Feb. 3.

Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash introduced LB1008, which contains recommendation from the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Protection of Vulnerable Adults Subcommittee. Coash said the subcommittee recommended that the role of guardians ad litem be defined clearly in statute.

“Currently there’s a huge question about what guardians ad litem can and cannot do,” he said.

The bill would require that a guardian ad litem be a licensed attorney in good standing, complete relevant training and advocate for the best interests of the individual whom they defend, including their social, economic and personal safety interests.

Each guardian ad litem would be required to make contact with the person he or she represents within two weeks of appointment and become familiar with that person’s condition to the best of their ability.

The guardian ad litem would be authorized to conduct discovery, present and cross-examine witnesses, file motions on behalf of the person they represent and request medical, psychological or other relevant examinations of the person to whom they are appointed.

He or she also would be authorized to make recommendations to the court regarding a temporary or permanent guardianship, conservatorship or other protective order.

If any person or entity refuses to produce documents requested as part of a guardian ad litem’s duties, that person would be held in contempt of court.

William Lindsay, representing the subcommittee, supported the bill. He said clearly defining the role of a guardian ad litem will ensure someone is advocating for a public ward’s best interests at all times.

“Many times a guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the needs of a particular person either during the process of appointing a guardian, conservator or investigating the actions of either of those two,” he said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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