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May 17, 2006

Senate Bill 664: Bill That Could Disrupt Parent-Child Relationships Amended

Sponsors:
Senator Grosfeld

Summary:
Senate Bill 664, as introduced, would have allowed judges to interfere with families by appointing lawyers for children from healthy, intact families in virtually any situation, excused those lawyers from malpractice, and forced the parents to pay the bill. HSLDA sent an e-lert to families asking them to call members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. In response, the committee proposed amendments that addressed all three concerns. The Senate approved the amendments, then passed the bill. The House subsequently passed the bill, and on May 16, Governor Ehrlich signed it. House Bill 700 is the companion bill to S.B. 664.

Status:

2/03/2006 (Senate): First Reading Judicial Proceedings Committee.
2/21/2006(Senate): Judicial Proceedings Committee Hearing at 1 p.m. Bill has not yet been reported out of committee.
3/29/2006 (Senate): Favorable With Amendments Report By Judicial Proceedings
3/29/2006 (Senate): Favorable With Amendments Report Adopted
3/29/2006 (Senate): Floor Amendment (Senator Grosfeld)
3/29/2006 (Senate): Laid Over (Senator Greenip) Adopted
3/29/2006 (Senate): Floor Amendment (Senator Grosfeld) Adopted
3/29/2006 (Senate): Second Reading Passed With Amendments
3/31/2006 (Senate): Third Reading Passed (38-5)
3/31/2006 (House): First Reading Judiciary
4/03/2006(House): Favorable Report Adopted
4/03/2006(House): Second Reading Passed
4/04/2006(House): Hearing 4/5 At 1 p.m.
04/06/2006 (House): Favorable Report By Judiciary
04/06/2006 (House): Third Reading Passed (128-11)
04/06/2006 (Senate): Returned Passed

HSLDA's Position:
Oppose.

Action Requested:
No more action is necessary.

Background:
Ordinarily, parents have the right to speak on behalf of their children. Only in unusual situations, such as disputes over custody, visitation and child support, can a judge appoint a lawyer to represent the child.

Senate Bill 664, however, changes all of this. A court could give strangers the right to speak on behalf of your children by giving judges the authority to appoint a lawyer for a child in any situation, as long as the judge is "concerned about the welfare" of a child. The bill does not define "concerned" or give any objective standards. It leaves the door open for judges to interpret it as they please, with unpredictable consequences.

Another major problem is that these lawyers will be exempt from malpractice and parents will be forced to pay their fees.

 Other Resources

Bill Text   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History