LGAL 7 Guardian ad Litem Grievance and Complaint Procedure 1.1 GENERAL TERMS. 1.1.1 Complaint Review Board. A Mason County Complaint Review Board (the Board) is created. The Board shall consist of three (3) members: a representative of the Mason County Superior Court, selected by the Court Administrator and approved by the judges; an active Guardian ad Litem; and a member of the Mason County Bar Association, selected and approved by the Association. The Guardian ad Litem member shall be a member of the Mason County Guardian ad Litem Registry who has not received any sanctions pursuant to a guardian ad litem complaint procedure in the past three years. The Guardian ad Litem member shall be selected by the Court Administrator and approved by the judges. Service on the Board is a voluntary service for the good of the community and is made without receipt of any additional compensation from this service on the Board. 1.1.2 Application of Rules. These rules shall apply to guardians ad litem appointed on any case heard by this court under Titles 11 and 26 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). 1.1.3 Filing of Complaint. Any person may file a complaint against a guardian ad litem. The complaint must be in writing and filed with the Court Administrator. The complaint must state the specific guardian ad litem act, or failure to act, of concern to the complaining party and shall include the following information: (a) The name, mailing address, telephone number, and e- mail address of the person filing the complaint; (b) The case number and case name of any underlying case and whether the case is active or inactive; (c) Whether the complaining party has discussed the complaint with the guardian ad litem; (d) What action, if any, the guardian ad litem has taken to address the complaint; (e) Which section(s) of the Mason County Superior Court Guardian ad Litem Code of Conduct (copy available from Court Administrator) was violated and the specific facts underlying each alleged violation; (f) Which provision(s) of the Order of Appointment was violated and the specific facts underlying each alleged violation; and (g) What the complaining party would like done to fix the problems complained of and why. 1.1.4 Limitation on Filing Complaints. Complaints under this rule must be filed within one year from the date of the act or failure to act of concern to the complaining party. 1.1.5 Removal. If the guardian ad litem is removed from the Court Registry, the Court shall enter findings of fact and an order of removal. Upon removing a guardian ad litem from the registry, the Court shall forward a copy of the order to the Office of the Administrator of the Courts for circulation to other counties. 1.1.6 Confidentiality. The complaint, and the Board’s initial decision, shall be kept confidential from everyone but the complainant and the guardian ad litem in inactive cases, and from everyone but the complainant in active cases, unless the Board finds cause to proceed with the complaint. Any requests to disclose information from the complaint or guardian ad litem files are subject to redaction of case identifying information, including the names of parties and case numbers, any information that could endanger a victim of domestic violence, and any information prohibited by law from disclosure. (a) No cause to proceed. If the Board finds no cause to proceed with the complaint, no record of the complaint shall be kept in the guardian ad litem’s individual file, although a copy shall be kept in a separate unfounded complaint file safeguarded for confidentiality. After three (3) years, complaints in this file shall be destroyed, with a notation remaining in the file including the names of the complainant and the guardian ad litem, the date the complaint was filed, and the Board’s finding of no cause to proceed with the complaint. However, if a complainant discloses to a third party that a complaint has been filed, the guardian ad litem in an active case shall receive a copy of the complaint and the Board’s decision. In all cases where the complainant discloses to a third party that a complaint has been filed, the guardian ad litem may file a written response to the complaint, which shall be placed in the confidential file. (b) Cause to Proceed. If the Board finds cause to proceed, the complaint and all relating documents shall be kept in a separate file, which shall include copies of the Board’s decisions and any judicial decisions related to the matter. 1.1.7 Extension of Timelines. Timelines stated herein may be extended by the Board or by a Judicial Officer for good cause. 2. GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE. 2.1.1 Motion in Court. At any time during an active case, and within one year of the last activity in a case, a party may bring a motion in court to address issues of concern related to a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem and all other parties to the case shall receive notice of hearing for the motion and a copy of the motion. If such a motion is brought while a complaint is pending before the Board, or after the Board has issued a decision on the complaint, the party shall disclose to the court the Board’s involvement in the matter. A decision by the Board is not binding on a Judicial Officer hearing such a motion. Such a motion shall be heard by a Judicial Officer who has not heard matters in any underlying case at issue in the complaint and who shall not hear matters in such a case in the future. 2.1.2 Initial Review by Board. Within fifteen (15) working days after a complaint is filed, the Board shall review the complaint and make an initial determination whether there is cause to proceed. (a) The initial decision shall be in writing and shall state whether the Board finds cause to proceed with the complaint and the reasons why or why not; (b) The Board shall mail the initial decision to the complainant immediately; and (c) In its discretion, the Board may request additional information from the complainant. The complainant shall provide the requested information within ten (10) additional working days. The failure of a complainant to provide the additional information may be a factor in the Board’s initial decision to proceed or not. 2.1.3 Review of Determination of No Cause to Proceed. If the Board finds no cause to proceed, the complainant may seek review of that decision by a motion before a Judicial Officer consistent with this rule. 2.1.4 Procedure Following Determination of Cause to Proceed. If the Board finds there is cause to proceed, the Board shall notify the guardian ad litem in writing at the same time the complainant is notified of the Board’s initial decision. The notice to the guardian ad litem shall include a copy of the complaint and a copy of the Board’s initial decision. (a) The guardian ad litem shall respond in writing within fifteen (15) working days of the mailing of the decision; and (b) The guardian ad litem shall mail a copy of the response to the complainant. 2.1.5 Board’s Authority Following Determination of Cause to Proceed. After reviewing the guardian ad litem’s response, the Board’s authority is as follows: (a) To find that the guardian ad litem did not violate applicable laws, rules, or policies; (b) To issue a written reprimand to the guardian ad litem; (c) To issue an advisory letter to the guardian ad litem summarizing concerns for the guardian ad litem to address; (d) To refer the guardian ad litem for additional training; (e) To require the guardian ad litem to take corrective action to remedy or mitigate matters complained of; (f) To require a guardian ad litem to bring or support a motion to seal or remove information in the court file; (g) To recommend removal of the guardian ad litem to the Judicial Officer hearing the underlying case; and (h) To recommend to the court that the guardian ad litem be suspended or removed from the Court Registry. 2.1.6 Decision. Following consideration of all materials submitted, the Board shall issue its final decision within fifteen (15) working days following receipt of the guardian ad litem’s response. (a) The Board shall mail the final decision to the complainant, the guardian ad litem, the Court Administrator, and all parties in any underlying case; and (b) The final decision shall be placed in the guardian ad litem’s individual file and the guardian ad litem complaint file. 2.1.7 Judicial Review of Board’s Decision. If the Board’s final decision includes removal of the guardian ad litem from the Court Registry, the guardian ad litem may request a hearing on the decision. (a) Procedure on Filing Review. Judicial review must be requested within twenty (20) days of the mailing date of the final decision. The request shall be delivered to the Court Administrator and served on all parties to the case at issue and to the complainant. Service may be by regular mail and certified mail, return receipt requested. The matter shall be heard by a Judicial Officer who has not heard matters in any underlying case at issue in the complaint and who shall not hear matters in such a case in the future; (b) Response. No response is required and no oral argument will be heard unless requested specifically by the Judicial Officer. If written response or oral argument is directed, a schedule shall be set for filing written materials and the date for argument set taking into account the availability of the complainant and the guardian ad litem; (c) Scope of Review. The Judicial Officer shall review the written record and any oral argument to determine whether the guardian ad litem violated applicable laws, rules, and policies, and if so, the appropriate remedy. The Judicial Officer shall issue findings of fact and a decision on the complaint based on an independent review of the record; and (d) Consideration of Prior Complaints. If the Judicial Officer determines that a violation occurred, consideration may be given to any founded prior complaints against the guardian ad litem in determining the appropriate remedy.
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