The Supreme Court of South Carolina
In re: Amendments to Rule 608,
South Carolina Appellate Court Rules
The South Carolina Bar's Rule 608 Task Force has requested the Court amend Rule 608, SCACR, to end the practice of appointing attorneys as guardians ad litem (GALs) in the Family Court. The Bar's Task Force asserts other organizations, such as the South Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program, which is funded by the General Assembly and administered by the Office of Executive Policy and Programs, and Richland County CASA, which is privately funded and organized, are responsible for providing volunteer GALs in abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights cases. Both programs recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to act as GALs in such matters in all forty-six counties of South Carolina.
In reviewing the practice of appointing GALs in the family court, we believe programs such as the South Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program and Richland County CASA have the requisite expertise and resources to best serve the needs of children and the general public in providing GALs in matters in which they are required. The vast majority of attorneys who are appointed have no training or experience as GALs, and there is no appropriate supervision of those attorneys. The Court believes the participants are better served when attorneys who are appointed are appointed as advocates. Furthermore, the South Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program has made significant strides in the past several years in recruiting and training sufficient numbers of volunteers.
Accordingly, we grant the request of the Bar's Task Force to amend Rule 608. Effective July 1, 2010, Rule 608 is amended, as reflected in the attachment, to eliminate the appointment of attorneys as GALs pursuant to Rule 608. Attorneys appointed as GALs prior to the amendment shall continue to serve until appropriately relieved under the rules or until the matters have been properly concluded.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Jean H. Toal C.J.
s/John H. Waller, Jr. J.
s/Costa M. Pleicones J.
s/Donald W. Beatty J.
s/John W. Kittredge J.
Columbia, South Carolina
November 20, 2009
Appointment of Lawyers for Indigents
(a) Purpose. This rule provides a uniform method of appointing lawyers to serve as counsel for indigent persons in the circuit and family courts.
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(e) Active Members Who Have Not Completed the Trial Experiences Required by Rule 403, SCACR. An active member who has not completed the trial experiences required by Rule 403, SCACR, but has been admitted to practice law in South Carolina for one (1) year or more shall be fully eligible for appointment under this rule, and, at his or her expense, will be expected to associate another lawyer if necessary to carry out the appointment.
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(g) Minimizing Appointments.
(1) The unnecessary appointment of lawyers to serve as counsel places an undue burden on the lawyers of this State. Before making an appointment, a circuit or family court judge must insure that the person on whose behalf the appointment is being made is in fact indigent. Further, a lawyer should not be appointed as counsel for an indigent unless the indigent has a right to appointed counsel under the state or federal constitution, a statute, a court rule or the case law of this State.
(2) A lawyer should only be appointed as counsel under this rule when counsel is not available from some other source. For example, an appointment under the rule for a criminal defendant should not be made when there is a public defender available to take the appointment.
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Last amended by Order dated November 20, 2009, effective July 1, 2010.