WSR 02-01-024

RULES OF COURT

STATE SUPREME COURT


[ December 6, 2001 ]

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF THE AMENDMENT TO NEW GR 27 )

)

ORDER

NO. 25700-A-720

The Access to Justice Board having recommended the adoption of the proposed amendment to New GR 27, and the Court having approved the proposed amendment for publication;

Now, therefore, it is hereby

ORDERED:

(a) That pursuant to the provisions of GR 9(f), the proposed amendment as attached hereto is to be published for comment in January 2002 in the Washington Reports, Washington Register, Washington State Bar Association and the Administrative Office of the Courts' websites.

(b) The purpose statement as required by GR 9(d), is published solely for the information of the Bench, Bar and other interested parties.

(c) Comments are to be submitted to the Clerk of the Supreme Court by either U.S. Mail or Internet E-Mail by no later than April 30, 2002. Comments may be sent to the following addresses: P.O. Box 40929, Olympia, Washington 98504-0929, or Lisa.Bausch@courts.wa.gov. Comments submitted by e-mail message must be limited to 1500 words.

DATED at Olympia, Washington this 6th day of December 2001.
Gerry L. Alexander
CHIEF JUSTICE

GR 9 Cover Sheet


NEW GR 27

FAMILY LAW COURTHOUSE FACILITATORS



Purpose: Judges, administrators, clerks and the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) have since 1993 shared a concern that courthouse facilitators may be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, giving rise to possible liability of the counties and departments that administer the courthouse facilitator program. Of equal concern is the challenge that self-represented litigants face in preparing and presenting family law cases, and the challenge presented to court and clerk staff in assisting self-represented users of the court.

In response to these dual concerns, a proposed court rule was drafted to define the role and duties of a courthouse facilitator. Practical considerations balancing the need for real assistance and the prohibition against giving legal advice without a license to do so led to the involvement of the Access to Justice Board (ATJ), which established a courthouse facilitator committee. The Board for Judicial Administration (BJA) Project 2001 also appointed a courthouse facilitator committee to make recommendations and propose rules and legislation. The BJA approved the concept of a court rule setting forth provisions for qualifications, training and scope of duties of a courthouse facilitator.

The ATJ Courthouse Facilitator Committee approved the BJA Project 2001 version of the court rule and has made further refinements in response to stakeholders' comments. Since the BJA adopted the recommendations of Project 2001, the Access to Justice Board has continued efforts to gain support for New GR 27, with the full support and cooperation of Judge Faye Kennedy, Chair of the BJA Domestic Relations Committee and the Project 2001 Courthouse Facilitator Committee. ATJ has asked BJA to jointly propose adoption of New GR 27.

GR 24, sponsored and strongly supported by the WSBA and which became effective September 1, 2001, provides that those serving as courthouse facilitators pursuant to court rule are exempt from the unauthorized practice of law (GR 24 (b)(2)). New GR 27 is the court rule pursuant to which courthouse facilitators would serve.

GR 27(a) provides that it applies only to courthouse facilitator programs created pursuant to RCW 26.12.240, which in turn provides that a county may create a courthouse facilitator program. This section was included to ensure that only county-sponsored programs, whether administered by court administration, clerk or independent contract, are eligible to receive the protection afforded by GR 24 and New GR 27, which exempt from the unauthorized practice of law, courthouse facilitators providing services pursuant to court rule (GR 24 (b)(2); GR 27(f)).

GR 27(b), as amended by the Board for Judicial Administration, provides that the Supreme Court create an advisory committee, supported by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), to establish minimum qualifications and administer a curriculum of initial and ongoing training requirements for courthouse facilitators. The AOC is to assist the counties in administering family law courthouse facilitator programs. Basic services to be provided by facilitators are defined in the rule (GR 27 (c)(3)). The rule provides that no attorney-client relationship is established between the facilitator and user of the facilitator's services (GR 27(e)). Written and signed disclaimer of the attorney-client relationship and confidentiality shall be obtained by the facilitator, on a form to be developed by the AOC (GR 27(d)).


New GR 27 (Proposed Court Rule)

FAMILY LAW COURTHOUSE FACILITATORS


(a) Generally. RCW 26.12.240 provides a county may create a courthouse facilitator program to provide basic services to pro se litigants in family law cases. This Rule applies only to courthouse facilitator programs created pursuant to RCW 26.12.240.

(b) The Washington State Supreme Court shall create a Family Courthouse Facilitator Advisory Committee supported by the Administrative Office of the Courts to establish minimum qualifications and administer a curriculum of initial and ongoing training requirements for family law courthouse facilitators. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall assist counties in administering family law courthouse facilitator programs.

(c) Definitions. For the purpose of this rule the following definitions apply:

(1) A Family Law Courthouse Facilitator is an individual or individuals who has or have met or exceeded the minimum qualifications and completed the curriculum developed by the Administrative Office of the Courts and who is or are providing basic services in family law cases in a Superior Court.

(2) Family Law Cases include dissolution of marriage, modification of dissolution matters such as child support, parenting plans, non-parental custody or visitation, and parentage by unmarried persons to establish paternity, child support, child custody and visitation.

(3) "Basic Service" includes but is not limited to:

a) referral to legal and social service resources, including lawyer referral and alternate dispute referral programs and resources on obtaining family law forms and instructions;

b) assistance in calculating child support using standardized computer based program based on financial information provided by the pro se litigant;

c) processing interpreter requests for facilitator assistance and court hearings;

d) assistance in selection as well as distribution of forms and standardized instructions that have been approved by the court, clerk's office, or the Administrative Office of the Courts;

e) assistance in completing forms that have been approved by the court, clerk's office, or the Administrative Office of the Courts;

f) explanation of legal terms;

g) information on basic court procedures and logistics including requirements for service, filing, scheduling hearings and complying with local procedures;

h) review of completed forms to determine whether forms have been completely filled out but not as to substantive content with respect to the parties' legal rights and obligations;

i) previewing pro se documents prior to hearings for matters such as dissolution of marriage and show cause and temporary relief motions calendars under the direction of the Clerk or Court to determine whether procedural requirements have been complied with

j) attendance at pro se hearings to assist the Court with pro se matters.

k) assistance with preparation of court orders under the direction of the Court.

l) preparation of pro se instruction packets under the direction of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

(d) Family Law Courthouse Facilitators shall obtain a written and signed disclaimer of attorney-client relationship, attorney-client confidentiality and representation from each person utilizing the services of the Family Law Courthouse Facilitator. The prescribed disclaimer shall be in the format developed by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

(e) No attorney-client relationship or privilege is created, by implication or by inference, between a Family Law Courthouse Facilitator providing basic services under this rule and the users of Family Law Courthouse Facilitator Program services.

(f) Family law courthouse facilitators providing basic services under this rule are not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Upon a courthouse facilitator's voluntary or involuntary termination from a courthouse facilitator program, that person is no longer a courthouse facilitator providing services pursuant to RCW 26.12.240 or this Rule.

Washington State Code Reviser's Office