Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where is the GPS for Maine GALs?

Maine GALs and Judiciary are driving blind!

It is our impression and that of others in the media that the Judicial Branch is driving blind when it comes to modern managerial tools of GAL program oversight. There appear to be no regular statistics coming out of any part of the judicial system that would allow the Judicial Branch to know what is going on at all levels of the system with regard to GALs. There is no data indicating how many of the 328 GALS in Maine are working on cases at any one time, which courts have appointed them, how long they have been on a case, whether there are problems, complaints or complications. Does York have more GALs on the job than, say, Bangor, or Wiscasset? What are the comparative profiles of each district court with regard to GAL usage and GAL complaints or problems?  Are particular GALs in the system consistently generating more problems? 

Either no one knows, or they're not telling.  We strongly suspect that they don't know.  Management information is a key part of oversight and management of a GAL program.  It leaves the Judicial Branch without the vitally important contemporary information tools used by every business in America, by most governments and by academia. 

Guardian ad litem activities ought to be recorded monthly by GAL professionals, in systematic ways, recording of their activities required by statute (a to do list) and checking off point by point mandated requirements to name a few. We are told there is  "No money for it" as the reason in Maine for not having management information systems, or "possible violation of confidentiality", or "intrusion into the need to protect judge's impartiality".  All of these are issues that can be addressed and dealt with by planner programmers.  We have to ask: How do better rated  state judicial systems handle this data for program management issues?  Can we in Maine borrow ideas (or whole systems) from others?  Why are we not actively seeking outside consultation on information systems?  Maine, as a small, poor state sometimes seems to fall back on the old Ogden Nash observation, "incest is best", and turn to familiar members of the family for technical help that lacks an objective, arm's length viewpoint.  To improve our national report card rating of "F", we don't need participants responsible for the "F" reforming a GAL data program.

We need to escape from a 19th century anecdotal approach in managing 328 GALs in Maine: "It's not that bad..."  If there are problems, just wait till they explode, and then deal with them 'ad hoc'.   The current handling of Maine's GAL program  is akin to driving a car at full speed with windows blackened and no external visibility!  More families and children are going to get hurt.  An informed public is going to protest these inadequacies with increasing strength and frequency. 

At the very least, the Judicial Branch should impose a moratorium on creating new GALs until they have the modern information tools to manage them.  To say "It's not that bad" is an unacceptable standard when children and families are involved.


  1. "It's not that bad," is a pathetic standard for managing a program of GALs created by Maine's Judicial Branch. What are they doing? We don't know! We don't have any numbers for district courts.

    The legislature and the Administrative Branches of Maine's government should demand facts and figures about GALs, or cancel GAL programs as management disasters.

    Instead the Judicial Branch's very limited statistics: 2 cases make it to higher level appeal on an annual average are seen has a triumph that he program is in super shape. Only 2 complaints! Wow! A simple GAL consumer, or market, survey would show otherwise. Many complaints at the district court level don't make it to an appeal.

    Appeals are about rich people who can afford to do an appeal, costing thousands of dollars. The JB, with no data, shouldn't get smug that "it's not that bad"!

    A complaint process shouldn't be the right of only those with money to do it. An appeal shouldn't impoverish families.

    1. When questioned back in October of 2010 we were told by Mary Ann Lynch that the information requested might be protected. These are statistics of the functioning of GALs that was being requested. It took four months of asking and going to higher and higher sources to finally get the stats from the Judicial Branch. This information was also made available to OPEGA back in February 2012. The question that I and many others have is how meaningful is this data. It shows nothing other than the Judiciary has no control over GALs. There is opportunity for abuse that is be default sanctioned by the Judiciary.

      I have called and visited many courthouses in the state asking if they have any information about GALs. Any. In every case I was told no that is not something that they keep track of. Maybe Augusta does. Sadly we know that in Augusta there is no tracking of this information on GALs.

  2. It is unbelievable that a branch of government would license/create GALs , launch them into the world, and then, essentially, pay no attention to them. In our opinion it is irresponsible and dangerous to Maine children and families. There is no Judicial Branch handle on the work GALs are doing for the courts, either good, bad or indifferent. This program ought to be halted until there are the proper management tools that would allow administrative oversight.

    We sense that the Judicial Branch rests on the idea that problems will get dealt with by appeal at the end of a case or by a motion to remove GAL at the district court. Both are expensive solutions to dealing with a dysfunctional GAL. It is an example of (perhaps unintentional) socio-economic bias. Tools for removing a GAL are for the rich only!

    Both complaint actions are subject to an internal attitude problem that is pervasive throughout the Judicial Branch that anyone who complains is "a bad sport", dissatisfied with the outcome of their case. The current system seems to aim at making it difficult for "bad sports" to make a complaint, or, if they do, to get resolution.

    How can anyone be sure that only "bad sports" make complaints?

  3. Anyone who has gone through the experience of having a GAL, who doesn't follow the statutes, who has an "inappropriate" relationship with one of the parties, who fails to do timely reports for the court, or who gets into major conflict with one or both parties- all mentioned by the Chief Justice- is apt to become a "bad sport" or be told by their GAL that they need "anger management".

    We are all "bad sports" when it comes to GAL reform. The best "anger management" would be serious reform of this gross injustice!