RD61 - Guardian Ad Litems

Executive Summary:
In 2002 the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation requiring the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the establishment of a statewide Indigent Defense Commission and the need for oversight and training for court-appointed counsel. In spring 2004, during a Virginia State Crime Commission meeting, the Spangenburg Group briefed members regarding indigent defense. While the Spangenburg Group concentrated on indigent defense in their analysis, part of their 2002 court payment analysis included court payments for all GAL services in the Commonwealth. Members were apprised that some individuals were making in excess of $100,000 per year on GAL work alone in 2002. Subsequently, Chairman David B. Albo directed staff to obtain the 2001 and 2003 databases to ascertain if the same individuals and high levels of payments were present in those years, as well. Analysis of the three years of reimbursements found over 100 individuals had in excess of 120 cases in at least one of the three years (Attachment 1). Pursuant to the direction of Chairman Albo, Crime Commission staff was requested to further study payments to GAL’s in the Commonwealth, as well as services provided for 2001-2003.

Based on the Crime Commission analysis, the Supreme Court of Virginia may wish to consider implementing the following recommendations to allow for greater accountability in the GAL system:

Recommendation 1

Mandate all GAL’s submit itemized vouchers in every case, clearly establishing specific dates, times and hours for activities that are billed. The itemization also should clearly indicate when the GAL met with his clients, the parents or other parties, and any witnesses in the case, as well as the location where such meetings took place.

Recommendation 2

Create a form to submit with payment vouchers that: (a) affirms the attorney has not “double billed” (i.e., each hour or unit of time has only been billed once, and has not been rebilled against other clients); and, (b) affirms that, at the time of submission of a voucher, the GAL has addressed items A-K related to the duties and responsibilities specified on the back of the appointment Order (met with client, interviewed witnesses, etc.)

Recommendation 3

Require that at the time of the payment voucher submission, the attorney inform the appointing court of the number of other outstanding GAL cases he has at that time in all courts.

Recommendation 4

Instruct the courts to have all GAL’s submit written reports in all cases where the attorney has worked for more than ten hours out-of-court; in those rare instances where a GAL feels a report is not appropriate, he should inform the Court (preferably in the form of a motion) why a report is not appropriate, and receive permission from the Court not to file a report.