Regent University law students hail from all around the country seeking to change the world. The Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law takes that charisma and channels it to four focus areas. Among those areas is the protection of children. The Center recognizes that there is nothing more important than protecting those who cannot protect themselves.
“Helping our students and local attorneys to become a Guardian Ad Litem fits directly with our mission,” said Ernie Walton, administrative director for the Center for Global Justice. “GALs do incredibly important work. They ensure that a child’s best interests are vigorously represented in cases in which children might otherwise be treated as a means to an end, a mere piece of property to be fought over instead of cared for.”
On Friday, March 20, 2015, Virginia Continuing Legal Education (Virginia CLE) and Regent University’s Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law partnered together to bring an amazing opportunity to those seeking to become Guardians Ad Litem (GAL) in the state of Virginia. GALs in Virginia are bar certified Virginia attorneys appointed by courts to represent children or incompetent adults in a variety of court proceedings. Although certification procedures for each category of guardians are different, one of the major requirements for certifying as a GAL for children is to take the seven credit “Representing Children as a Guardian ad Litem” CLE/Certification course offered jointly by Virginia CLE and the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Regent Law students and attorneys alike attended the Representation of Children as a Guardian Ad Litem training program. Among those in attendance were sixteen third-year law students, nine outside attorneys, and four students observing for educational purposes.
The CLE program featured five video lectures of qualified experts who outlined the court and filing procedures, qualifications for becoming a certified GAL in the state of Virginia, and the roles and responsibilities of a GAL. Attendees learned that a GAL is just one part of the entire process from the filing of a case to the closing of an appeal. In one lecture, the Honorable Thomas P. Sotelo, a former certified GAL, advised participants on what the Court wants from their GALs: diligence in their investigations and passionate representation for the child’s best interests.
After the program, one attendee commented that this CLE program required her to have a moment of introspection. She realized that being a GAL requires an attorney to go the extra mile and have greater accountability to those they serve.
Third-year law students who plan to take the Virginia bar exam this summer or in February 2016 will have two years to complete the GAL certification process. Upon passing the bar, those students will send in their attendance certification forms to the Virginia Supreme Court and State Bar and be one step closer to changing the lives of children in Virginia.
By Sarah Jane Norris,Graduate Assistant, Center for Global Justice, Human Rights and Rule of Law
Regent Law Class of 2016