Thursday, July 12, 2018

Pennsylvania Superior Court rules lawyer can't serve as guardian ad litem and as lawyer for a child at the same time

Back in 2010 I posted a comment criticizing the practice of appointing attorneys for juveniles in delinquency proceedings to serve simultaneously as guardians ad litem and urging the Illinois Supreme Court to grant review in a case that challenged it.  I also published a law review article on the subject, available here.

Since then, the Court did review a case on the issue and decided that attempting to serve as a lawyer and as a guardian at the same time constituted an impermissible conflict of interest.  I wrote an article about the case (here).

Unfortunately, the practice of appointing lawyers to serve as lawyers and guardians simultaneously is still common in many jurisdictions, including, oddly, in Illinois.  (The ruling in Illinois banned the practice in delinquency cases but not in family law matters.)

I am writing about this again today because I just read that the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a ruling in a case called In re J'K.M., 2018 BL 226337, Pa. Super. Ct., No. 1390 WDA 2017, 6/26/18, holding that an attorney appointed as a teen's guardian ad litem and as her lawyer in a neglect proceeding can't continue the dual roles because a divergence between what the child wants and what is best for them creates a conflict of interest.

Given my history on this issue, you will not be surprised to hear that I think this is definitely the correct decision. 

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