COLUMBUS— Today, Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) introduced legislation that would provide legal protections for Guardians ad litem (GAL) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). These are advocates appointed by a judge to determine what is in the best interest of a party, usually minors or adults subject to guardianship, who does not have an attorney of their own. Currently, these advocates are not afforded the same protections as officers of the court like judges and attorneys.
“These court appointed advocates represent the most vulnerable in our community,” said Miller. “They are volunteers and have to make tough, fair recommendations to the court. They must have the same protections from threats and intimidation as judges, juries and attorneys. Without these public servants, our children and elderly would be left without help and our court system would find it almost impossible to function properly.”
Without protections, court appointed advocates can face harassment, intimidation, stalking or worse from those who disagree with their independent, court assigned assessment.
This bill would make it a first degree misdemeanor for someone to abuse, threaten or harass a guardian ad litem or a court appointed special advocate in carrying out their court mandated duties.
GAL are courted appointed individuals who assist a domestic or juvenile court in determining what is in the best interest of a minor child or other court designated party. GALs most often serve in dependency, neglect or abuse cases.
CASA are volunteers who have been trained to advocate for the best interest of a child who has been abused or neglected. Unlike GALs, they work exclusively on cases involving children.
The legislation now awaits a bill number and referral to an Ohio House committee.