As we read the statutes, GAL case-confidentiality is "mostly" confidential. The statute starts out bravely with a call for confidentiality, but it quickly morphs into sanctifying the GAL's personal opinion about who needs to know. Below are two excerpts from the Guardian ad litem standards in Maine. You be the judge about these twisted statutes.
6.2 Confidentiality. A Guardian ad litem shall observe all statutes, rules and regulations concerning confidentiality. A Guardian ad litem shall not disclose information or participate in the disclosure of information relating to an appointed case to any person who is not a party to the case, except as necessary to perform the Guardian ad litem's duties, including those referenced in Standards.
And.... the unchallengeable claim of "best interest of the child"
3.2, 5.2 and 5.3, or as may be specifically provided by law. Communications made to a Guardian, including those made to a Guardian by a child, are not privileged and may or may not be disclosed to the parties, the Court or to professionals providing services to the child or the family based on the Guardian's evaluation of the best interest of the child. A Guardian's notes and work papers are privileged and shall not be disclosed to any person.
As we read it GAL the confidentiality statute appears loaded with circular reasoning and quite dependent on a GAL's personal opinion. It includes the paradox that the most likely victim of "confidentiality" might be one or both parties; especially, if the GAL uses that old, frequently defensive, self-serving mantra, "not in the child's best interest"!
Another questionable activity that may well infringe on any pretense of GAL confidentiality, is the free sharing of GAL client cases in monthly, Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute group supervision meetings. This along with the use of the Institutes members and leaders for consultation about "difficult cases". This study group sharing is unknown to the parties and done without permission from them to reveal details of their case. Many GAL's are attorneys, if they participate in these case study groups, they might coincidentally be gaining knowledge about a case that might give them an advantage in court. Maine is a small state, stories are distinctive, even if names are altered in discussions, identities may be hard to disguise.
The concept of any form of technical case "supervision" by a trade organization, like the Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute, which in another context advocates for and defends its GAL members in a number of different political and legal situations, strikes us as fraught with conflicts of concept, design and interests. This to say nothing of shattering any recognized standard concepts of confidentiality! The normal arm's length attitude required to offer objective technical case supervision is lacking in a trade organization, which appropriately aims at defending and protecting its members.
One cannot but wonder who created these wide open confidentiality statutes for GAL's? They clearly give GAL's a handful of trump cards, and may effectively turn "confidentiality" into whatever a GAL wants it to be. We feel that consumers have no privacy protection. GAL reform needs to bring the off-beat standards of GAL "confidentiality" into line with those in the rest of the world.
On matters of GAL confidentiality, as on many other issues, the Judicial Branch has been badly missing a consumer perspective on the issues.