Disability and Guardianship Project:
   Washington State


Christina Baldwin
Washington Advisor

Thomas F. Coleman

Legal Director

Appointment of Counsel
for Guardianship Respondents

Spectrum Institute is advocating for the mandatory appointment of counsel to represent respondents in all guardianship cases.  Washington is one of 20 states that does not ensure effective advocacy services for all guardianship respondents.  We are also requesting the Washington Supreme Court to mandate proper training programs for court-appointed attorneys, to adopt ADA-compliant performance standards, and to implement procedures to effectively monitor the performance of appointed attorneys in these cases.

Washington advisor Tina Baldwin is assisting the Disability and Guardianship Project to promote guardianship reform in Washington State.  Tina is a member of WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders) which is a two-year project operating under the auspices of the Washington Supreme Court to review the guardianship system and recommend improvements.

On January 19, 2016, the Washington Supreme Court received a letter from the Disability and Guardianship Project asking the court to ensure that guardianship respondents have access to effective advocacy services in these proceedings.  The letter reminded the court of its responsibilities under Title II of the ADA to ensure that litigants with cognitive and communication disabilities have access to justice.  The letter was shared by Tina with members of the Washington Legislature and with members of WINGS.

It appears that WINGS has assigned the issues of appointment of counsel and the training of court-appointed attorneys to some of its committees to review from a variety of perspectives.

Spectrum Institute submitted a report to the Washington Supreme Court on March 16, 2016, focusing on problems with the appointed-counsel system and recommending ways to bring the system into compliance with state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The current policies and practices of the courts do not appear to be in compliance with Title II of the ADA, much less with relevant Washington statutes.  Although it is appropriate for WINGS to study these issues, every day these problems continue is another day that the rights of guardianship respondents are being violated.  The court, therefore, should take steps to address these issues with all deliberate speed.

We have also delivered letters to the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Law and Justice Committee suggesting that more legislative oversight is needed by the Legislature as to how the courts are implementing the statute mandating appointment of counsel in guardianship cases.  We have offered to conduct an informational briefing for legislators, staff, and the public on Access to Advocacy Services in Guardianship Proceedings.

Links to the special report, exhibits to the report, and other publications and activities of Spectrum Institute appear below.  To read the letter of transmittal, click here.

The Justice Gap
Report to the Supreme Court

Executive Summary Brochure

The Justice Gap
Contents to Exhibits

Full Set of Exhibits

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