2017 Regular Session
To: Judiciary, Division A
By: Senator(s) Tindell, Hill
(As Sent to Governor)
AN ACT TO CREATE THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM TRANSPARENCY AND OVERSIGHT PANEL; TO PRESCRIBE THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE PANEL; TO REQUIRE REPORTING OF INFORMATION TO THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF COURTS BY CHANCERY CLERKS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) The Guardian Ad Litem Transparency and Oversight Panel is created to address and investigate the appointment of guardians ad litem as required by statute or ordered by a court, determine the frequency of such appointments, and compile an analysis of the costs to the various counties and to parties. The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subdivision A, shall chair the panel. The other members shall be the following fourteen (14) persons:
(a) The Chair of the Conference of Chancery Court Judges, or a designee;
(b) The Chair of the Conference of County Court Judges, or a designee;
(c) The Chair of the Council of Youth Court Judges, or a designee;
(d) A youth court referee appointed by the Chair of the Council of Youth Court Judges;
(e) The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Division B, or a designee;
(f) The Senate Chair of the Investigate State Offices Joint Committee;
(g) The Chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary “A” Committee, or a designee;
(h) The Chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary “B” Committee, or a designee;
(i) The Chair of the House of Representatives Youth and Family Affairs Committee, or a designee;
(j) The Director of the Administrative Office of Courts, or a designee;
(k) The Director of the Mississippi Judicial College, or a designee;
(l) Two (2) attorneys who are regularly appointed as guardians ad litem, appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; and
(m) A youth court prosecutor appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
(2) All appointed members of the panel shall be appointed within thirty (30) days of the date of passage of this act. Members of the panel shall serve without compensation.
(3) A vacancy in the panel shall not affect its powers, but shall be filled as prescribed in subsection (1) of this section. The task force shall hold its first meeting within sixty (60) days of the effective date of this act, on the call of the chairperson of the task force. A majority of the membership of the panel shall constitute a quorum, and the panel shall meet at the call of the chairperson, or upon an affirmative vote of a majority of the panel. All members must be notified in writing of all meetings at least five (5) days before the date on which a meeting of the panel is scheduled.
(4) The duties of the panel shall be to:
(a) (i) Compile and analyze the information required to be submitted in Section 2 of this act, and ultimately to recommend legislation to improve the guardian ad litem system.
(ii) Assess the feasibility and potential benefit or detriment of counties employing a full-time guardian ad litem and make a finding and recommendation.
(b) Report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by December 1 of each year of its existence.
(5) The Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Joint Committee of the Legislature shall assist the panel in carrying out its duties required by this section. The Director of the Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review shall designate an appropriate employee to act as a point of contact for staff support to the panel. In addition, the panel may consult with employees of any state agency or department necessary to accomplish the panel’s responsibilities under this section.
(6) This section shall stand repealed on December 31, 2020.
SECTION 2. (1) In a chancery case in which a guardian ad litem is appointed by the court, it is the duty of the chancery clerk to prepare and forward to the Administrative Office of Courts the information described by subsection (2) of this section not later than the last day of the month following the entry of an order approving any payment to the guardian ad litem.
(2) The clerk shall prepare and forward the following information when filed in a contested case where the guardian ad litem fees exceed One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00):
(a) A copy of any invoice for guardian ad litem fees;
(b) A copy of any order directing payment of guardian ad litem fees; and
(c) A copy of any petition seeking recovery of guardian ad litem fees, as well as any orders concerning payment of guardian ad litem fees, including, but not limited to, orders of contempt.
(3) If an order previously reported under subsection (1) of this section is amended by order of the court, the clerk shall forward the subsequent court order not later than the last day of the month following the entry of the amended order.
(4) The duty of a clerk to prepare and forward information under this section is not affected by:
(a) Any subsequent appeal of the court order;
(b) Any subsequent modification of the court order; or
(c) The expiration of the court order.
(5) This section does not apply to youth court matters.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after April 1, 2017.