Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, Court Rules, Rule 7.17
Los Angeles County Court Rules
Los Angeles County
Superior Court
Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles Court Rules
Chapter Seven. Juvenile Division Rules
Appointment of Counsel and Special Advocate

Rule 7.17. Legal Representation

(a) Appointment of Counsel for Adults. An adult "client" is defined as any parent, or guardian, or other adult who has been determined by the court to have standing. A client is entitled to be represented by competent legal counsel. "Competency" is defined by Rule 5.660 of the California Rules of Court.

When it appears that a client is presently financially unable to afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney unless the client has made a knowing and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel.

In a dependency case, an attorney shall be appointed to represent a client at the earliest possible stage of the proceeding. The appointed attorney must continue to represent the client unless relieved by the court.

An attorney representing a client in dependency court shall affirmatively inquire of their client as to whether he or she has reason to believe that any child appearing in the dependency court has Indian heritage under the ICWA. Every effort should be made by counsel to assist confirmation of a child's Indian status and tribal membership.

A client who receives legal counsel appointed by the court must meet with the financial office in the Children's Court for a determination of the client's ability to reimburse the County for the cost of appointed counsel. The appointed attorney bears the responsibility of ensuring that the client has the necessary paperwork for the financial office and knows where the office is.

(b) Appointment of Counsel for Children.

(1) At the arraignment and detention hearing, or as soon thereafter as possible, the court will appoint for each child who is the subject of any dependency petition an attorney who shall also serve in the capacity of a Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act ("CAPTA") guardian ad litem for the child, unless the court finds on the record that the child would not benefit from the appointment of an attorney for any purpose. California Rules of Court, rule 5.660.

(2) If the court does not appoint an attorney for the child, the court will make a referral for the appointment of a Court-Appointed Special Advocate ("CASA") for the child to act in the capacity of a guardian ad litem ("GAL").

(3) If the court does appoint an attorney for a child, that representation shall occur through the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles ("CLC").

(4) No child may be represented by the County Counsel, or any other attorney representing DCFS.

(c) Eligibility for Appointment as Counsel for Adults.

(1) California State Bar Membership. An attorney must be in good standing with the California State Bar at all times in order to be appointed to represent an adult client in a dependency proceeding.

(2) Education/Training. The attorney must complete a minimum of 8 hours of training or education in the area of juvenile dependency law or be able to show recent experience which demonstrates a competency in the area of juvenile dependency law.

i. The attorney must be familiar with Welfare and Institutions Code statutory requirements, the Evidence Code, local and state court rules, court policies, relevant case law, the practice guidelines set forth in the Local Rules, and the substantive, ethical, and procedural issues unique to the dependency court.

ii. The attorney must be familiar with the various stages of the court proceedings from arraignment and detention through review of permanency hearings. This includes, but is not limited to, the structure and functioning of the juvenile court, the CASA program, DCFS programs, policies, and procedures, issues related to reunification, placement, reasonable efforts, adoption, and permanency, and familiarity with the juvenile court's mediation program.

iii. The attorney must be familiar with appellate and other review procedures including writs, rehearings, appeals, and other extraordinary remedies.

iv. An attorney who is new to dependency court must observe and/or be available to participate in each type of dependency hearing from detention through review of a permanency plan prior to accepting an appointment.

v. An attorney who is new to dependency court must visit three types of placements used to house dependent children such as emergency shelters, foster homes, or group homes.

vi. The attorney must be familiar with the effects of racial, cultural, ethnic, sexual orientation issues, and language differences with regard to child rearing, treatment, and placement practices and issues.

(d) Eligibility for Appointment as Counsel for Children. In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements for appointment as counsel for adults as provided in subdivision (c) above, an attorney seeking appointment as counsel to a child must be familiar with the following:

(1) Child development stages including a child's cognitive, emotional, and social growth stages, language development, and patterns of child growth related to neglect and non-organic failure to thrive;

(2) Interviewing techniques for children, including techniques that are age-appropriate and take into consideration the type of abuse the child is alleged to have suffered;

(3) Child development as it relates to children as witnesses and the impact of the court process on a child;

(4) The types of placements available to children, and issues related to placement including, but not limited to (i) a working knowledge of licensing requirements for foster care and relative placements, (ii) the impact of multiple placements on the child, and the importance of maintaining sibling groups versus the best interests of each child in the sibling group, and (iii) the effect placement will have on visitation issues and on the delivery of services to children in placement;

(5) The educational, medical, mental health, dental, and other resources available for children in the dependency court system, the funding therefor, and the means of identifying the need for and the accessing of such resources;

(6) The emancipation laws, and the resources available to assist the dependent child to emancipate, including, but not limited to, DCFS's Independent Living Program, the requirements for and the availability of transitional housing, and the availability of funding to assist emancipating children in living independently; and

(7) The court's policy regarding joint reports for Welfare and Institutions Code section 300/602 children pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 241.1, and all other policies and protocols regarding dependent children contained in this chapter.

(e) General Practice for Court-Appointed Attorneys in Dependency Court.

(1) The court-appointed attorney should make inquiries necessary to determine at the outset of the proceedings whether a conflict exists in the representation of a party.

(2) At a party's first appearance, the attorney should verify with the client, to the extent the information is known, the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and relationships of all persons entitled to receive notice of the proceedings, including the birth dates of each party and child. The attorney should also inquire as to the name, address, telephone number, and relationship of all known relatives and/or non-relative family members for possible placement of any detained child. If any relative and/or non-relative family member is identified, then the dependency court form entitled "Relative Information Sheet" must be completed and filed with the court.

(3) At a mother and/or father's first appearance, the attorney should make inquiry of the client as to the applicability of ICWA, and so inform the court.

(4) At a mother and/or father's first appearance, the attorney should make inquiry of the client as to paternity issues. The dependency court paternity questionnaire form must be completed by the mother and father in all cases and filed with the court in all cases. The "Paternity--Waiver of Rights" form (Judicial Council form JV-505) must be completed by any person claiming paternity status or non-paternity, which shall also be filed with the court.

(5) The attorney should have a complete familiarity with the facts of the case by reviewing the court file, especially when appointed to represent a party during the pendency of a case, and by bringing discovery motions, interviewing witnesses, procuring experts, and otherwise conducting an independent investigation.

(6) The attorney should make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the client understands the court processes, proceedings, and the potential and actual consequences of the proceedings. Special efforts should be taken to ensure that a client understands these matters if the client demonstrates any evidence of being developmentally delayed, or exhibits signs that he/she is suffering from any cognitive or emotional problems which would affect the client's ability to comprehend any aspect of the dependency proceedings.

(7) The attorney must maintain a current business address and working telephone number and promptly notify a client of any change of address or telephone number. The attorney should provide the client with his or her business card.

(8) The attorney must show courtesy and respect to judicial officers, DCFS social workers, CASA, DCFS court officers, courtroom personnel, witnesses and all counsel.

(9) The attorney must be aware of children present in the courtroom, so that discussions of sensitive case issues, whether pertaining to a particular child or other children, are not overheard by the children or made in an insensitive manner.

(10) Settlement should be considered as soon as enough information is known about the case to make settlement discussions meaningful. In every case, the attorney should consider whether the client's interests could best be served and whether the case could be more appropriately resolved by mediation or other settlement discussions. The attorney must be familiar with the juvenile court's mediation program.

(f) Practice Guidelines for Representing Children in Dependency Court. In addition to the general practice, attorneys representing children have the following additional duties and responsibilities:

(1) The attorney must be familiar with the requirements of Welfare and Institutions Code section 317(e) for the representation of children, California Rules of Court, rule 5.660, regarding standards of representation, and 5.660, regarding caseload size;

(2) The attorney or his/her staff should separately interview each child four years of age or older, and should interview a younger child if it is determined that the child has sufficient language skills to communicate. The attorney should ascertain the child's wishes, needs, and background. Interviews should be done in an atmosphere where the child feels comfortable and privacy is ensured;

(3) At the initial interview, where possible, the attorney should inform the child, in language the child can comprehend, the nature of dependency proceedings, the role of a lawyer, the child's rights, including the right to confidentiality, and the nature of the subject matter of any petition and the contents of any related report; and

(4) The attorney should be actively involved in, and vigorously advocate at, every stage of the proceedings involving a child client and take any necessary legal steps that would promote and advance a child's right to receive all appropriate reunification and permanent placement services and all other services and resources to meet the child's educational, dental, medical, and mental health needs.

(g) Eligibility for Continued Practice in Dependency Court.

(1) Education/Training. A court-appointed attorney in dependency court must complete a total of 12 hours of continuing education credits each year. This training shall include mandatory attendance at the annual conference sponsored by the juvenile court and California State University, Los Angeles, and at least five hours of training offered at the Children's Court or other training approved by the juvenile court.

Ongoing training shall also include summaries of current changes in the dependency laws and statutes, summaries of recent and relevant case law, and information and instruction on child development, child abuse and neglect, family reunification and preservation, reasonable efforts, domestic violence, substance abuse, special education, mental health, government benefits, and cultural diversity issues.

(2) Evidence of Competence. The attorney must file in the office of the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court a certification of satisfaction, signed under penalty of perjury, of the continuing education requirements not later than February 15 of each year (Juvenile Form 4). An attorney's failure to comply with this requirement may result in the court's refusal to appoint the attorney.

(h) Caseloads for Children's Attorneys. The court adopts any caseload standards for children's attorneys established by the Judicial Council.


Adopted, eff. July 1, 2011.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Rules, Rule 7.17, CA R LOS ANGELES SUPER CT Rule 7.17

Current with amendments received through 3/1/2011                              

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