Friday, December 18, 2015

Legal representation urged for adult guardianships in Nevada

A committee tasked with fixing the state's guardianship program wrangled Tuesday with the concept of legal representation and how it might apply to state's guardianship courts.

Several members at a meeting of the Nevada Supreme Court Commission to Study the Administration of Guardianships threw heavy support behind the idea of mandating attorney representation for those facing adult guardianships.

While attorney representation is a right given to anyone facing criminal charges, the infirm and elderly in the state who are facing the loss of many of their constitutional rights that comes with a guardianship are not guaranteed the same right.

"One of the most important things we need to do is make sure the people who are losing their rights have legal counsel," said Sally Ramm, of the state's Aging and Disability services.

Chief Justice James Hardesty, who chairs the commission, said he thinks many of the problems that he has heard from family members who feel that their loved one was taken advantage of could have been solved if the ward was given an attorney from the beginning of the process.

Hardesty had a simple recommendation for the panel.

"(Wards) are entitled to an attorney and I think they should have one appointed," he said.

The biggest hurdle for the panel is finding out the best way to fund such representation, and a subcommittee will discuss the most feasible way to do so.

The concept isn't so foreign to some parts of the state, though.

Judge Frances Doherty, who oversees Washoe County's guardianship cases, said that Northern Nevada county has been providing attorney representation to those under guardianship, often referred to as wards, through the county's senior legal aid program for the past two years.

If the panel fails to provide that representation to the thousands of other wards throughout the state, Doherty said, the commission might have been formed for naught.

"We would fall short so significantly as a commission if we failed to affirm the right of the individual facing guardianship in the adult arena to have their own attorney," Doherty said.

The panel was formed after longstanding problems with the system — which handles thousands of guardianship cases in Clark County each year — were exposed in a series of Las Vegas Review-Journal articles in April. Highlighted cases showed a lack of oversight by the courts that left infirm and incapacitated people vulnerable to financial abuse.

The panel was originally supposed to provide recommendations to the state Legislature by the new year, but the Supreme Court recently extended the commission's length by an additional six months.

Full Article & Source:
Legal representation urged for adult guardianships in Nevada


Boomers Against Elder Abuse said...

One easy solution would be to restore legal capacity for all wards, and to keep guardianships limited in this way. Everyone in this country deserves to have legal representation of choice, and that includes those stuck in the guardianship system with no way out, aside from a court appointed attorney that does not represent the ward, but instead represents the court.

Anonymous said...

A court mandated attorney is just like having no attorney at all. What all potential wards need is an attorney of THEIR Choosing, not some court mandated puppet who is earning their living do absolutely nothing but going along with the State to steal the potential ward's money. Clearly this committee doesn't understand the real issue or they seriously believe we are a hell of a lot dumber than we are!