Saturday, October 31, 2015

Problems with the Complaint Process - Our reply

To: Mary Ann Lynch, Esq

From: Jerome A Collins, MD

Subject: Your reply to my query.

1.) As you state, there was indeed a very long time period for public (and other) input into the new GAL Rules and the complaint Board. It went on over a period of years. I can safely say that during its extremely lengthy "gestation period", there were numerous public occasions in legislative hearings, in JB committees  and in private conversations with you, in which very strong opposition to the placement of the Board under the management of the Overseers of the Bar was expressed. It was no secret. There was virtually unanimous opposition by our group - and by any and all GAL service consumers - to having the complaint protocol handled by the lawyers' "guild".  So from a consumer/grass-roots/user perspective the Judicial Branch has chosen a lawyer-friendly rather than a consumer friendly approach to GAL  complaint management.

I would add that the most significant problems with the actual Board could not be evident until a Board was appointed, so there was absolutely no way of raising our concerns about the Board composition and membership in advance.

2.) Your refusal to answer the questions in my earlier memo is (to my knowledge) a first for you in all the time I have known you, and admired your incredible (and commendable) work ethic. I asked questions seeking guidance from you on general principles about the particular committee. It struck me and others that Senator Dutremble (or any legislator) would be severely hamstrung in his service to  constituents, if his constituents were to have a GAL complaint. It also seems that Mr Prescott will have extensive external channels of information about GALs from MEGALI members, just by being a member of MEGALI himself, and that his access to this information effectively sabotaged the purity of the screening steps to be conducted by the Overseers' staff. It is not hard to imagine that he will have all sorts of information about "officers of the court" who belong to his "club"  before anyone else on the committee.  Everyone is equal, but some are more equal, as they say.

I regret that you are unwilling to provide guidance as an informational service to those who might consider using the GAL complaint service.  As things stand with the GAL Board, we are tempted to borrow from Ralph Nader's comment about General Motors: "Unsafe at any speed!!"  Not designed for the safety of families and children!

The emails between MeGAL and the Judicial Branch:

2015-10-21 Is the New Maine Guardian ad litem Complaint Process Fair to Parents?

2015-10-30 The Judicial Branch replies on the Complaint Process

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Judicial Branch replies on the Complaint Process

From: "Mary.Ann Lynch"
Sent: Oct 23, 2015 1:49 PM
To: J & M Coll
Subject: Re: Built-in Structural Problems with Maine Guardian ad litem Board

Thank you for your letter and for  taking the time to share your opinion of the new GAL rules, and the newly appointed Board. As you know there was considerable opportunity for public input to the Supreme Judicial Court before the rules were promulgated. The new rules contain provisions for recusal and disqualification, to which the members will need to comply.

I am not going to respond to your questions because they are better addressed to the members of the board to whom you are raising issues of conflict of interest.  The members of the board, working with the board staff​, ​are in the best position to respond to claims of actual or potential conflicts of interest.​ I am sure they will comply with all the rules of the new process, including the rules governing recusal and disqualification.  ​

Mary Ann Lynch, Esq.
Government and Media Counsel
Administrative Office of the Courts
Maine Judicial branch
P.O. Box 4820
Portland, ME 04112

If you are interested in reading our letter to the Judicial Branch please click on this link.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Is the New Maine Guardian ad litem Complaint Process Fair to Parents?

The following was sent to Mary Ann Lynch of the Judicial Branch regarding the new and improved complaint process that the judicial branch has asked us (consumers) to use since September 1, 2015. While the new rules and complaint process is more robust it does present issues:

It is hard for some of us to understand the object of the "new" Guardian ad litem (GAL) complaint protocol. It is a confusing piece of work in terms of its aims or purpose!.  To some readers it appears to be a virtual Guardian ad litem Protective Society that aims at  discouraging complaints about GALs.  Not only is the multi layered complaint procedure very likely to intimidate, confuse and frustrate a 'Pro se' complainant, but also the committee, which will review and judge any of the complaints that may squeeze through the screening procedure, seems heavily slanted towards "friends of the GAL family".  To outside observers, both the design of the complaint protocol and the selection of a board  are nearly flawless, if one aims to suppress  public complaints.

Two guardian ad litem board members, Senator David Dutremble and Chair,  Dana Prescott, Esq.  appear to have other professional roles- which expose them to conflict with their GAL board role. One is a state senator with normal constituent obligations; the other has been an important leader in MEGALI, the Maine Guardian ad litem trade organization.  Mr Prescott has been rumored to be the successor to Toby Hollander, the organization's present leader.  MEGALI is a major support organization for GALs.  It provides educational supports, an online chatroom,, consultation on cases, group supervision of GALs and advises on problems associated with the GAL relationship with parties.  It may lead to Mr Prescott knowing about cases well before they wend their way through the formalities of the GAL complaint protocol.   Is this potential for "jumping the gun" before the usual steps in the complaint procedure permitted by the complaint protocol?

How might these potential organizational loyalty conflicts be handled by the program's creators or, for that matter, by compelainants?

As we understand it, the way the Board is structured for complaints,board members are not allowed to get involved in reviewing any actual case information until complaints have first gone through a staff screening process, and, then, their involvement is very structured, very legalistic, only in committee. Does this structure impact the ability of Senator Dutremble to hear the details of a GAL complaint from a constituent until it has been screened and presented to the committee by board staff? Would hearing a complaint directly from one of his constituent (such as me) create a "conflict of interest" for Senator Dutremble? Would he either have to abandon a constituent, or recuse himself from the committee?  It would appear that the senator might be bureaucratically hamstrung by accepting a board position.

There is also the matter of the senator (or any legislator) sponsoring possible GAL reform legislation while a committee member. As a member of the GAL board will he be limited legislatively? For instance, can he use his experience on the Board, as evidence to suggest needed reform of the GAL complaint protocol or of board make up? May he freely sponsor legislation, say, to move GAL oversight to the Administrative Bureau of licensing, using examples from his board experience? Or … will this present a conflict of interest?  Using data gathered from closed meetings to promote legislation aimed at demonstrating a problem and advocating reform legislation?

My worry, as one of Sen Dutremble's actual constituents, is that his role as a legislator and his role as a member of a Judicial Branch Guardian ad litem Board might at times present conflicts that would limit my access to him as a constituent. Have provisions been made for this sort of contingency?

Then there is situation of The GAL Complaint Board Chair, Dana Prescott. Mr Prescott  has been an intimate part of  the trade organization (MEGALI) that supports GALs.  Can The Chair of the committee even pretend to be "impartial" in dealing with GAL complaints with his base of case knowledge coming through the MEGALI system of which he is a member?  Or does impartiality in judging complaints matter to those who have created the complaint procedure?

There are other committee members perceived by the public as family court "warriors", with little sympathy for would be public complainers.  It looks like an airtight group.  Do you expect that any complaints will actually get through?  For many professional licensing boards there are projected annual averages or percentages of expected complaints needing corrective action of some sort.  Are you projecting any such numbers for this board.  From its structure and membership composition, it looks like 0% (zero)  sanctions for this board.

As the saying goes,  "the devil may be in the details", but many worry that the public is being short changed. We need your opinion on the several questions I raise about conflict management.

If you have had issues with Family Courts we would encourage you to contact us at or find us on Facebook.