What do GAL Program Attorneys do?

That’s the subject matter of a certain open records request currently pending for the Guardian ad Litem Program. According to my sources, it reads as follows:

This is a public records request under chapter 119 being made upon the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Program for an opportunity to inspect and copy documents containing the following information:

1.            The name of each attorney, circuit director and regional management staff within the Guardian Ad Litem Program throughout Florida, including that employee’s specific title, their duties and responsibilities as set forth in their position description, their particular qualifications for the job (hopefully beyond possession of a license to practice law in the case of a staff attorney), their most recent performance evaluation and their annual compensation during fiscal years 2009 and 2011.

2.            The number of dependency petitions filed, or thereafter adopted following voluntary dismissal by others, solely by the Guardian Ad Litem Program, broken down by circuit, during fiscal years 2009 and 2011.

3.            The number of termination of parental rights petitions filed, or thereafter adopted following voluntary dismissal by others, solely by the Guardian Ad Litem Program, broken down by circuit, during fiscal years 2009 and 2011.

4.            The number of appeals to the district courts of appeals (either plenary or original proceeding) in which the Program was represented solely by a staff attorney, the Program was the sole appellant and the staff attorney filed a dispositive motion, or brief longer than 10 pages in length, excluding attachments, during fiscal years 2009 and 2011.

5.            The number of appeals to the district courts of appeals (either plenary or original proceeding) in which the Program was represented solely by a staff attorney, the Program was the sole appellee and the staff attorney filed a dispositive motion, or brief longer than 10 pages in length, excluding attachments, during fiscal years 2009 and 2011.

6.            The number of fair hearings or DOAH proceedings in each circuit in which the hearing request was filed and litigated solely by a staff attorney in connection with a dependent child, during fiscal years 2009 and 2011.

7.            The policies governing and/or analyzing from the perspective of the Rules of Professional Responsibility of the Florida Bar,  (a) whether the client of an attorney employed by the Guardian Ad Litem Program is the Program or the individual Guardian Ad Litem, (b) how that relationship is described to volunteer guardians ad litem, other parties and participants, and judges, (c) all protocols for resolving disagreements between the Circuit Director, the staff attorney and/or the volunteer, and (d) whether staff attorneys are authorized by the Program to instruct voluntary Guardians Ad Litem not to speak with third-parties based on attorney-client privilege.

8.            All internal evaluations by the Program since January 1, 2010 on either a statewide or circuit basis of the efficacy of the legal component of the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Program, including but not necessarily limited to, (a) the competence of its staff attorneys, (b) the familiarity of staff attorneys with the psychological needs of children in out-of-home care, and (c) an evaluation of whether the existing methods of assigning a staff attorney to every new case constitutes a waste of scarce resources, relative to other staffing models, in view of the fact that there is no legal requirement that an attorney be assigned to every case on which a GAL is appointed.

9.            The statewide and circuit budgets for litigation by staff attorneys during fiscal years 2009 and 2011, and how those funds were specifically spent by category of expense.

10.          Materials written by the Program itself and used for training since January 1, 2010, including but not necessarily limited to performance evaluations and position descriptions, (a) to acquaint staff attorneys with the expectations the Program has of its staff attorneys, and (b) to gauge the concrete success of those efforts.

11.          For fiscal years 2009 and 2010, records already on hand or compiled collecting the case-specific tangible accomplishments by each staff attorney that would likely not have occurred but for the initiative taken by that staff attorney.

Redactions may be made where necessary to protect statutory confidentiality.

I say good luck with that. The GAL Program (notoriously both inside and outside of the Program) does not keep case management records in any easily compilable way. If you want to know something you have to go through thousands of paper case files with thousands of pages each, all over the state.  The faster approach might be to request the “motions logs” that attorneys have to submit monthly. That would provide a more granular view of the attorneys’ day-to-day functions.

I think this is a start in building an empirical case either for or against the current representation model, but limiting the request to things done “solely” by the GAL Program may artificially skew the results because this is multi-party adversarial litigation. It would effectively require the parent and DCF to be on the same side of an issue against the GAL Program, or there to be no parent involved at all. I think the question should be whether the GAL Program filed a dispositive motion on a matter, which is much harder to track because you’d also have to look at the reasoning of the courts.

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