Bar News - November 14, 2008
Probate Court Seeks Volunteers for Guardianship Monitoring
By: Hon. David King, Administrative Judge, NH Probate Court
The probate court is seeking volunteer attorneys to participate in its guardianship monitoring program. The goal of the program is to have independent persons periodically check on wards to determine whether their needs are being met.
The program, which began in New Hampshire in 1995, relies heavily on volunteers for its success. Several counties have very strong programs because of volunteer commitment. In other counties, however, it has floundered or was never started because of a lack of volunteers.
With nearly 6,000 open guardianships throughout the state, the probate courts want to be sure the program continues and expands in order to help the courts best accomplish their oversight responsibilities for these vulnerable citizens.
How the program works
After receiving an order from the probate court, the volunteer attorney visits with the ward, the guardian and the ward’s caretaker. The attorney acts as the eyes and ears of the court and reports on whether the guardianship is proper and the ward’s needs are being met appropriately. The attorney does not have to appear in court and does not provide direct representation of any party.
The newly revised Rules of Professional Conduct contain the provision that "(e)very lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (30) hours of pro bono public legal services per year." See Rule 6.1 (Effective January 1, 2008). Given that many of the court’s wards are indigent, serving as a volunteer in the probate court’s guardianship monitoring program may fulfill an attorney’s annual pro bono service commitment.
The court will provide a three-hour training program to interested attorneys. The training seminar can be included in the pro bono service hours. At this time we are particularly seeking volunteers for Belknap and Coos counties, but will later expand our search to other counties that need volunteers.
Attorney Pat Quigley assisted in the preparation of this article; if you would like further information on this program or wish to volunteer, contact her at email@example.com or 271-7525 x 335.