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Posted By Ollie, Mar 24, 2010

I read the saddest sentence in American jurisprudence today: "Petitioner claims his brain injury was caused when his ex-wife beat him in the head because she was trying to kill him to cash in on an insurance policy."  So.... I guess my life is going just fine.....

Dave Dawson was gracious enough to let me help him out with a "systematic change" type project that Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is working on.  If a defendant in a criminal case can't afford a lawyer, the Supreme Court has held that the state must appoint and pay for counsel.  This right has been extended to some civil cases, especially where the state is attempting to deprive an individual of his or her personal liberty, such as a civil commitment.  Some legal scholars have argued that the right to counsel should be expanded to other civil cases that involve a fundamental right- like termination of parental rights.  Dave is especially looking at the right to counsel in a guardianship appointment case.  Under Ohio law, a person has a right to a lawyer during the appointment of a guardian, but not during the review or potential termination of a guardianship.  A court-appointed guardian potentially has incredible power over his or her ward.  Guardians control finances, living arrangements, medical decisions, and privacy issues.  A ward is giving up a large liberty interest.  And disability is a fluid state.  A person unable to care for themselves now might be able to in 3 years. 

What does this mean for LASC?  They'll need to find the most sympathetic client they have who was appointed a guardian in the past and now can't afford an attorney to challenge their guardianship.  Someone like a little old lady whose child is her guardian.  An old lady stuck a a nursing home, who can't get a discharge because she legally can't make her medical choices anymore.  So I spent my day in the probate court looking through guardianship records, where I ran across the poor guy in the quote above.  This guy could use a lawyer for more things than one.