David Meschke


Children in dependency and neglect proceedings are one of the most vulnerable groups in our legal system. Nationally, their legal representation comes in many forms. In Colorado, juvenile courts assign guardians ad litem (GALs) to children in these proceedings. GALs are lawyers who represent the children's best interests. For many years, GALs faced an ethical dilemma: should confidentiality, as proscribed by the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, apply to the GAL-child relationship. In People v. Gabriesheski, the Colorado Supreme Court held that GALs are not their children's lawyers and, thus, confidentiality does not exist between GALs and children. While this decision made sense considering the facts of the case and the legal profession's distrust of GALs' capabilities, the holding has negative implications for the legal representation of dependent and neglected children. In particular, lack of confidentiality will damage the relationship between GALs and children because children will be less likely to disclose important information. This Casenote argues that Colorado should adopt a different approach that balances the benefits of confidentiality with the need to prevent further abuse and neglect. The approach provides for confidentiality between GALs and children, but limits confidentiality when it exposes the child to high risk of probable harm. Colorado's children would be best served by GALs who can protect their confidences and keep their trust.