Name of Non-Profit Agency:
Connecticut’s Probate Courts*
Legal Counsel, Office of the Probate Court Administrator
Who are the clients?
Individuals petitioning the Probate Courts for assistance for family members who are unable to care for themselves, the elderly and persons with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities.
What legal problem do these clients face?
Conservatorship: An indigent petitioner may require the appointment of an attorney to assist in bringing a petition for involuntary conservatorship. This role is typically short-term, ending when the court acts on the petition.
Children’s Matters: Removal of Guardian and Termination of Parental Rights: Attorneys for children of respondent parents are compensated by the Probate Court Administration Fund, but there is no statutory provision for the appointment of an attorney for a petitioner. Courts may seek the assistance of Pro bono counsel in complex cases in which an indigent petitioner has difficulty presenting his or her case. Attorneys may also be needed to serve as guardian ad litem for children.
Guardian of an Adult with Intellectual Disabilities: The Court may appoint an attorney to serve as guardian for an adult who is unable to care for himself/herself due to an intellectual disability. Duties include making decisions about the respondent’s residence, educational, vocational or behavioral programs or medical care. The guardian is required to file an annual status report with the Court. Guardians typically serve on an on-going basis.
The Court may also need to appoint an attorney to serve as guardian ad litem for the respondent. A guardian ad litem is expected to take any and all action necessary to protect the rights of the respondent with respect to a particular matter before the Court. This appointment is discretionary on the part of the Court and may be made anytime during the pendency of the guardianship to address a specific issue before the Court. This appointment is made on a short-term basis.
Decedents’ Estates: Attorneys are sometimes needed to represent indigent parties in contested decedents’ estates or to assist in the administration of insolvent estates.
Appeals: A party may need assistance in appealing a decision of a Probate Court.
If the pro bono attorney will be appearing for the client, in what court or other forum will that appearance be?
Most matters are heard exclusively in the Probate Court. Probate appeals are brought to the Superior Court.
What are the outcome goals of this assistance?
That the individuals’ voices are heard and their interests are protected in these matters.
What time commitment is required to do this pro bono work?
It varies depending on the type of case. Please refer to the above case descriptions for more information.
Where is the pro bono work done? (For example, at a legal aid office or at the pro bono attorney's office.)
In the Probate Court, the attorney’s office, the client’s residence, and other locations in the client’s community.
Give a short (1-paragraph) case example:
The Probate Courts face a critical need in assigning attorneys to assist family members seeking to arrange proper care for a child whose parents are unable. For example, a grandmother brings a petition to remove her daughter and son-in-law as guardians of her grandchildren. The grandmother has been raising the children since their birth because her daughter and son-in-law have allowed their drug use and poverty to interfere with the needs of raining their small children. The grandmother loves her daughter but recognizes that the children need permanency. The Probate court may have appointed counsel to represent the minor children and the respondent parents but there is no statutory provision to the Probate Court to appoint counsel for the grandmother. Without an advocate, the grandmother has to represent herself in arguing the legal grounds for removal before the Probate Court and in the presence of her daughter, son-in-law and their attorneys.
At what time of day is the pro bono work done (example evening clinic)?:
During business hours for court appearances, with possible after hours requirements to accommodate the clients’ schedules.
Does this pro bono work require full admission to practice in Connecticut?