Disability and Guardianship Project:
   Washington State


Christina Baldwin
Change Agent

Thomas F. Coleman
Legal Director

Appointment of Counsel
for Guardianship Respondents

Parent-advocate Tina Baldwin is assisting the Disability and Guardianship Project of Spectrum Institute to promote guardianship reform in Washington State.  Tina is a member of WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders) which is an agency operating under the auspices of the Washington Supreme Court to review the guardianship system and recommend improvements.

We are advocating for the mandatory appointment of counsel to represent guardianship respondents in all cases.  Washington is one of 20 states that currently is not appointing an attorney to represent guardianship respondents in all cases.  We are also advocating for training and monitoring of appointed attorneys.

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 several of its committees to review from a variety of perspectives.  They include committees on long range planning, standards and best practices, and training.

While the committees of WINGS continue to study these issues, Spectrum Institute is submitting a report to the Washington Supreme Court documenting 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 Americans with Disabilities Act, much less with statutes passed by the Washington Legislature.

Links to the special report, exhibits to the report, and other publications and activities of Spectrum Institute appear below.

The Justice Gap
Report to the Supreme Court

The Justice Gap
Exhibits to the Report

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