ASSEMBLY, No. 2292

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 18, 2010

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  RUBEN J. RAMOS, JR.

District 33 (Hudson)

Assemblyman  CRAIG J. COUGHLIN

District 19 (Middlesex)

Assemblywoman  CELESTE M. RILEY

District 3 (Salem, Cumberland and Gloucester)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblymen Diegnan, Fuentes, Assemblywoman Pou and Assemblyman Chivukula

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Authorizes Office of Public Defender to provide legal representation for child in proceedings after parental rights have been terminated.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning the legal representation of children and amending and supplementing P.L.1999, c.53.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    Section 54 of P.L.1999, c.53 (C.30:4C-15.4) is amended to read as follows:

     54.  a.  In any action concerning the termination of parental rights filed pursuant to section 15 of P.L.1951, c.138 (C.30:4C-15), the court shall provide the respondent parent with notice of the right to retain and consult with legal counsel.  If the parent appears before the court, is indigent and requests counsel, the court shall appoint the Office of the Public Defender to represent the parent. The Office of the Public Defender shall appoint counsel to represent the parent in accordance with subsection c. of this section.

     If the parent was previously represented by counsel from the Office of the Public Defender in a child abuse or neglect action filed pursuant to chapter 6 of Title 9 of the Revised Statutes on behalf of the same child, the same counsel, to the extent practicable, shall continue to represent the parent in the termination of parental rights action, unless that counsel seeks to be relieved by the court upon application for substitution of counsel or other just cause.

     Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude the parent from retaining private counsel.

     b.    A child who is the subject of an application for the termination of parental rights pursuant to section 15 of P.L.1951, c.138 (C.30:4C-15) shall be represented by a law guardian as defined in section 1 of P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.21), and such representation shall continue until the child's permanent placement has been finalized by the court.

     If the child was represented by a law guardian in a child abuse and neglect action filed pursuant to chapter 6 of Title 9 of the Revised Statutes, the same law guardian, to the extent practicable, shall continue to represent the child in the termination of parental rights action, and until the child's permanent placement has been finalized by the court, unless that law guardian seeks to be relieved by the court upon application for substitution of counsel or other just cause.

     c.     The Office of the Public Defender is authorized to provide representation to children and indigent parents in termination of parental rights proceedings under Title 30 of the Revised Statutes [pursuant to the provisions of this section]The Office of the Public Defender shall authorize the continuation of the
representation of a child after the entry of an order terminating parental rights to ensure that the child's wishes are made known to the court and the child's interests are protected in any subsequent court hearing to review the implementation of the permanency plan for the child.

     (1)   In selecting attorneys to serve as law guardians or counsel for indigent parents, the Office of the Public Defender shall take into consideration the nature, complexity and other characteristics of the cases, the services to be performed, the status of the matters, the attorney's pertinent trial and other legal experience and other relevant factors.  The Office of the Public Defender also shall take into consideration an attorney's willingness to make a commitment to represent a child or parent, as applicable, in any actions taken under Titles 9 and 30 of the Revised Statutes related to child abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights and until the child's permanent placement has been finalized by the court pursuant to the provisions of this section.

     (2)   The Office of the Public Defender shall ensure that an attorney selected pursuant to this section has received training in representing clients in child abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights actions and post-termination review hearings from the Office of the Public Defender or will receive such equivalent training, as soon as practicable, from other sources.

     (3)   The Office of the Public Defender shall provide for an internal administrative unit with the responsibility to supervise, evaluate and select non-staff counsel who will represent indigent parents independently from the Law Guardian Program staff in the Office of the Public Defender.  All decisions of the Office of the Public Defender concerning the representation of indigent parents in particular cases shall be made by staff who have no actual involvement with the day-to-day legal representation being provided by the Law Guardian Program in the Office of the Public Defender.

     Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to limit the powers of the Public Defender pursuant to section 7 of P.L.1967, c.43 (C.2A:158A-7).

(c.f. P.L.1999, c.213, s.1)

 

     2.    (New section)  To the extent that funds are available, the Office of the Public Defender shall ensure adequate staffing to provide legal representation for children in post-termination review hearings pursuant to section 54 of P.L.1999, c.53 (C.30:14C-15.4).

 

     3.    This act shall take effect immediately.


STATEMENT

 

     This bill amends section 54 of P.L. 1999, c.53 (C.30:4C-15.4) to require that, as authorized by the Office of the Public Defender, a child be provided legal representation by a law guardian after the parental rights of a child's parent or parents have been terminated and until the child's permanent placement has been finalized by the court to ensure that the child's wishes are made known to the court and his interests are protected in any subsequent court hearing to review the implementation of the permanency plan for the child. Currently, the statute does not expressly provide legal representation to a child except during child abuse or neglect actions and termination of parental rights proceedings.

     The bill further stipulates that to the extent practicable, the same law guardian who represented the child in the termination of parental rights proceeding continue to represent the child until the child's permanent placement has been decided by the court.

     The bill also mandates that the Office of the Public Defender:

        take into consideration any attorney's willingness to represent a child after the child's parent or parents parental rights have been terminated and until placement has been finalized;

        ensure that attorneys selected to represent a child be provided training in representing clients in post-termination review hearings; and

        to the extent funds are available, ensure adequate staffing to provide legal representation for children in post-termination review hearings.