Jacksonville, OR asked in Estate Planning for Utah

Q: is it ethical for lawyer to communicate with court visitor and not share with opposing counsel this was done?

Judge ordered a court visitor for competency evaluation. The proposed ward hired a lawyer to halt the proceedings. The lawyer bringing the case then met for two hours with the court visitor before the evaluation while the counsel hired to halt these proceedings was not informed. The evaluation was performed by the social worker who had been advised by the lawyer, in effect removing the notion of unbiased, neutral findings.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Wesley Winsor
Wesley Winsor
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Saint George, UT
  • Licensed in Utah

A: Hello,

Court visitors are charged with providing an independent assessment. The fact that the Court Visitor met with the attorney is not alarming and even not that unusual. Remember that the attorney is an agent for the person petitioning for the guardianship/conservatorship and the attorney could have been explaining a diagnosis or merely explaining their position.

In the same vein, the proposed ward's counsel could have met with the Court Visitor as well. Upon the Visitor, report will be reviewed and there may be some follow-up questions by the judge. The visitor report is just one piece of evidence that the judge will consider. The proposed ward's actions/testimony is another, so are doctor's diagnosis. I can see why it might seem improper or inappropriate, but the process is a bit more collaborative than you might think in determining whether the proposed ward needs help and the scope of the help to give.

Certainly if the other attorney was the puppeteer and telling the Court Visitor what to do, then it would be illegal, but Court visitors usually have some training from the Court or by their profession as a doctor, nurse, etc. whose ethical obligations would restrict them from giving a biased opinion.

I hope this helps.


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