Wisconsin Lawyer: 101: How to Become Eligible for GAL Appointments:

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    101: How to Become Eligible for GAL Appointments

    Serving as a court-appointed guardian ad litem is one way for a new lawyer to gain paid legal experience. Setting aside for another day the question of whether a new lawyer should take an appointment, this article answers the frequently asked question: Am I eligible to accept a GAL court appointment?

    Gretchen Viney

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    father and baby feetTo serve as a guardian ad litem (GAL) in Wisconsin, a lawyer must meet the requirements of Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 35, for cases involving minors in chapter 48, 767, or 938 proceedings, and of SCR 36, for cases involving adults in chapter 54 or 55 proceedings. The information presented here answers preliminary questions about eligibility to serve as a GAL under these rules. Pay attention to the type of appointment (adult, minor/family, minor/other) and look for the explanation that fits the situation. Also, remember to check the county’s local rules because some counties impose additional requirements for serving as a GAL.

    Guardian ad Litem in Children’s Court and Juvenile Court

    May I accept an appointment as a GAL for a child in chapter 48 (children’s court) or chapter 938 (juvenile court) proceedings?

    Step One: Have you met the lifetime requirement of SCR 35?

    SCR 35.01 provides that a lawyer may accept a GAL appointment under chapter 48 or 938 if the lawyer has attended 30 hours of approved GAL education credits since Jan. 1, 1995. You are eligible to accept appointment under chapter 48 (children’s code) or 938 (juvenile code) if you have met the lifetime 30-credit requirement. SCR 35.01(1).

    If you have not met the lifetime requirement, go to Step 2.

    Step Two: Have you met the less-than-lifetime credit requirement of SCR 35.01?

    The general GAL training requirements are in SCR 35.01. Here’s a summary: On the date you accept an appointment under chapter 48 or 938, you must have completed six CLE credits, approved as GAL education credits by the Board of Bar Examiners (BBE), during your current CLE reporting period combined with your previous reporting period. The best way to envision this is to

    1) figure out how many GAL credits you have acquired in your current reporting period; and then

    2) add those credits to the ones you reported in your prior reporting period.

    If the total is six or greater, you can accept the appointment. SCR 35.01(2).

    If you have not met the requirements of Step One or Step Two, go to Step Three.

    Gretchen Vineyedu ggviney wisc Gretchen Viney, U.W. 1978, is a clinical professor and director of the Lawyering Skills Program at U.W. Law School. She maintains a private practice in Baraboo.

    Step Three: If you have not met the credit requirement, do special rules apply?

    If the lawyer has not met the education requirement of Step One or Step Two, the lawyer may be eligible for appointment if the appointing court makes a finding in writing or on the record that the case presents “exceptional or unusual circumstances” for which the lawyer is otherwise qualified by experience or expertise. If the court has made the requisite finding in writing or on the record, then you may accept the appointment. SCR 35.01(3).

    If you have met the requirements of Steps One, Two, or Three, then you are eligible for appointment as a GAL in chapter 48 or chapter 938 cases.

    Guardian ad litem education, as used in SCR 35.01 and in Steps One and Two, above, is explained in SCR 35.03(1) as follows:

    “The board of bar examiners shall approve courses of instruction at a law school in this state and continuing legal education activities that the board determines to be on the subject of the role and responsibilities of a guardian ad litem for a minor or on the subject matter of proceedings under chapter 48, 767 or 938 of the statutes and that are designed to increase the attendee’s professional competence to act as guardian ad litem for a minor in those proceedings.”

    Guardian ad Litem in Family Court

    May I accept an appointment as a GAL for a child in chapter 767 (family court) proceedings?

    Step One: Have you met the general credit requirements of SCR 35.015?

    The general GAL training requirements for family court GALs are in SCR 35.015. On the date you accept an appointment under chapter 767, you must have completed six CLE credits, approved as GAL education credits by the BBE, during your current CLE reporting period combined with your previous reporting period. The best way to envision this is to:

    1) figure out how many GAL credits you have acquired in your current reporting period; and then

    2) add those credits to the ones you reported in your prior reporting period.

    If the total is six or greater, you have met the general credit requirements.

    Now, go to Step Two.

    Step Two: Have you met the family court credit requirements of SCR 35.015?

    To accept an appointment as GAL in chapter 767, at least three of the six hours counted in Step One must be family court GAL education. So, at this point, confirm that at least three of the credits counted in Step One have been approved as family court GAL education.

    Now, go to Step Three.

    Step Three: Have you met the requirements of Wis. Stat. section 757.48(1)?

    Section 757.48(1) requires the GAL to have completed “3 hours of approved continuing legal education that relates to the functions and duties of a guardian ad litem under ch. 767 and that includes training on the dynamics of domestic violence and the effects of domestic violence on victims of domestic violence and on children.” Apart from the issue of whether the legislature can impose this type of training requirement, there is also an issue as to how to interpret this statute and its requirements. If the hours approved for the CLE credits in Step 1 include any domestic violence training, then most likely you have met the standard of section 757.48(1). Remember that this Step Three requirement might not be enforceable, but you probably do not want to be the test case.

    If you have met the requirements of Steps One, Two, and Three, you may skip Step Four.

    Step Four: If you have not met the requirements of Steps One, Two, and Three, do special rules apply?

    If you have not met the education requirements of Steps One to Three, you may be eligible for appointment if the appointing court makes a finding in writing or on the record that the action or proceeding presents “exceptional or unusual circumstances” for which you are otherwise qualified by experience or expertise. If the court has made the requisite finding in writing or on the record, then you may accept the appointment. SCR 35.015(2).

    Steps One, Two, and Three are cumulative. If you have met the requirements of all three steps, then you are eligible to accept appointment as a GAL in family court (chapter 767).

    If you have not met the requirements of Steps One to Three, but the elements of Step Four have been met, then you may accept appointment under that special rule.

    Guardian ad litem education, as used in SCR 35.01 and in Step One, above, is explained in SCR 35.03(1) as follows:

    “The board of bar examiners shall approve courses of instruction at a law school in this state and continuing legal education activities that the board determines to be on the subject of the role and responsibilities of a guardian ad litem for a minor or on the subject matter of proceedings under chapter 48, 767 or 938 of the statutes and that are designed to increase the attendee’s professional competence to act as guardian ad litem for a minor in those proceedings.”

    Family court guardian ad litem education, as used in SCR 35.015(1) and in Step Two, above, is explained in SCR 35.03(1m) as follows:

    “The board of bar examiners shall approve, as family court guardian ad litem education, courses of instruction at a law school in this state and continuing legal education activities that the board determines to be on any of the following subject matters:

    “1. Proceedings under chapter 767 of the statutes.

    “2. Child development and the effects of conflict and divorce on children.

    “3. Mental health issues in divorcing families.

    “4. The dynamics and impact of family violence.

    “5. Sensitivity to various religious backgrounds, racial and ethnic heritages, and issues of cultural and socioeconomic diversity.”

    Guardian ad Litem in Adult Proceedings

    May I accept an appointment as a GAL for adults in chapter 54 (guardianship) or chapter 55 (protective placement and services) proceedings?

    Step One: Have you met the lifetime requirement of SCR 36 for appointment?

    SCR 36.01 provides that a lawyer may accept a GAL appointment under chapter 54 or 55 if the lawyer has attended 30 hours of approved GAL education credits. You are eligible to accept appointment under chapter 54 or 55 if you have met the lifetime 30-credit requirement.

    If you have not met the lifetime requirement, go to Step 2.

    Step Two: Have you met the less-than-lifetime credit requirements of SCR 36.01?

    The general GAL training requirements are in SCR 36.01. Here’s a summary: On the date you accept an appointment under chapter 54 or 55, you must have completed six CLE credits, approved as GAL education credits by the BBE, during your current CLE reporting period combined with your previous reporting period. The best way to envision this is:

    1) figure out how many GAL credits you have acquired in your current reporting period; and then

    2) add those credits to the ones you reported in your prior reporting period.

    If the total is six or greater, you can accept the appointment. SCR 36.01(2).

    Step Three: If you have not met the credit requirements, do special rules apply?

    If you have not met the education requirements of Step One or Step Two, you may be eligible for appointment if the appointing court makes a finding in writing or on the record that the action or proceeding presents “exceptional or unusual circumstances” for which you are otherwise qualified by experience or expertise. If the court has made the requisite finding in writing or on the record, then you may accept the appointment. SCR 36.01(3).

    If you have met the requirements of Steps One, Two, or Three, then you are eligible for appointment as a GAL in chapter 48 or chapter 938 cases.

    Guardian ad litem education, as used in SCR 36.01 and in Step One and Step Two, above, is explained in SCR 36.03(1) as follows:

    “The board of bar examiners shall approve courses of instruction at a law school in this state and continuing legal education activities that the board determines to be on the subject of the role and responsibilities of a guardian ad litem for an adult or on the subject matter of proceedings under chs. 54, or 55, stats., and that are designed to increase the attendee’s professional competence to act as guardian ad litem for an adult in those proceedings.”

    Conclusion

    This article addresses only the CLE prerequisites for accepting appointment as a GAL. Fulfilling these minimum requirements, alone, would be insufficient preparation to perform adequately in this area of legal practice. However, intentional substantive and legal preparation, when combined with meeting the CLE requirements, will provide inexperienced lawyers with the tools they need to enter into this field.

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