Pursuant to Alaska Statute 13.26.106(b) the Office of Public Advocacy provides attorney representation to indigent respondents in adult guardianship cases. When a family member or community member (the "petitioner") files a petition with the court to appoint a guardian for an individual, the individual (the "respondent") is entitled to court-appointed counsel in the case if he or she cannot afford to hire an attorney.
A guardian for an adult makes medical, legal, and financial decisions for the person similar to a parent's relationship to a minor child. In an adult guardianship case the petitioner must prove to a judge that the respondent is incapacitated as defined in Alaska Statute 13.26.005(5). The respondent's rights, including the right to a trial by jury on the issue of incapacity, are set out in Alaska Statute 13.26.113.
If a family member or person from the community is asking to be appointed only as conservator (to help with the respondent's financial decisions and money) for an individual, the respondent is entitled to a court appointed lawyer in the case. Alaska Statute 13.26.195. The respondent’s lawyer in a conservator case will be paid for by the Alaska Court System pursuant to Administrative Rule 12 if the respondent does not hire counsel of his own choice.
If a respondent cannot fully understand the guardianship process or participate in the attorney client relationship, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem ("GAL") for the respondent. A GAL conducts an independent investigation into the respondent's situation and makes a recommendation the judge on what is in the respondent's best interests. OPA also provides GAL representation for indigent respondents pursuant to Alaska Statute 13.26.025.
If the Office of Public Advocacy has a conflict (or in an area without an OPA office), the agency will assign a contract attorney to represent the respondent.
In adult guardianship and conservatorship cases the court will appoint a Court Visitor in addition to an attorney or GAL for the respondent. The Court Visitor conducts an independent investigation and makes a recommendation to the judge on whether a guardianship or conservatorship is necessary and whom should be appointed as guardian or conservator for the respondent. OPA assigns and pays contractors to perform the Court Visitor function.
For more information regarding guardianship and conservatorship click here.
If you would like to find out the attorney assigned to represent the respondent in a case, you may contact one of OPA's regional offices.