McGeorge School of Law
Re: The Ethics of Judicial Control of Legal Services Programs
We are writing to share a report that involves an area of your interest and expertise: judicial ethics. Although the report addresses problems with the probate conservatorship system in California, it has national implications for adult guardianship systems in other states.
About two years ago, Spectrum Institute submitted a report to the Supreme Court of California titled The Domino Effect: Judicial Control of Legal Services. The report asked the court to modify the California Code of Judicial Ethics to clarify that judges may not operate or direct a legal services program involving attorneys who appear before the judges or their courts in individual cases.
The report – a trilogy on legal services -- demonstrates how such judicial control may cause attorney obedience which in turn may cause harm to clients. Thus, the domino effect. Perhaps 1.5 million adults in the United States, about 70,000 of whom reside in California, have active conservatorships and guardianships and therefore have likely been affected by this chain reaction. Tens of thousands more are affected annually when new guardianship or conservatorship petitions are filed.
We believe individuals with significant cognitive and communication disabilities would be more likely to have access to justice in such legal proceedings if the attorneys who represent them paid more attention to what they want and to their rights than to the actual or perceived wishes of the judges presiding over their cases.
Part One of the trilogy focuses on the problems associated with judicial management of legal services for proposed conservatees in Los Angeles County. Part Two discusses policy statements by national legal and judicial organizations opposing the practice of judges managing such legal services programs. Part Three identifies viable alternatives to judges operating legal advocacy and defense programs.
We would appreciate receiving your feedback on this report. We are unaware of any experts on judicial ethics having taken a position on this matter. Your opinion therefore would be helpful.
The report is found online at: https://spectruminstitute.org/ethics/
Thank you for considering this request. We hope that you will find the time to take a look at this report and share your comments with us.
p.s. Please let us know if there are other judicial ethics scholars to whom we should send this invitation.