Last night, the Alaska State Legislature passed House Bill 155 to improve the Alaska Court Visitor Program by transferring the program’s responsibilities from the Office of Public Advocacy to the Alaska Court System.
“House Bill 155 was a true collaboration between all three branches of state government to fix a flaw in state law that is negatively impacting the Alaska Court Visitor Program. Because of this flaw, many court visitors are paid and managed by the Office of Public Advocacy even though they actually work and report to the Court System. As the program has grown in recent years, this inefficiency has become more pronounced and made the program both inefficient and confusing. House Bill 155 will make the program better and improve outcomes for those vulnerable Alaskans who need guardianships and conservatorships,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage), sponsor of HB 155.
Court Visitors conduct independent investigations and make recommendations to the Alaska Court System on whether guardianships or conservatorships are necessary. Guardianships are used to protect individuals who cannot care for their well-being due to incapacity or disability. Conservatorships are used to manage an impaired person or minor’s financial and personal affairs. Court Visitors also participate in psychotropic medication proceedings during involuntary commitments to investigate whether the patient can give or withhold consent.
“The Office of Public Advocacy and the Court System showed us that the current structure of the program isn’t working well. Putting the Court Visitor Program under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court System will improve the program and the Court System will establish standards for the reports of Court Visitors and who can become a Court Visitor,” said House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage), who co-sponsored HB 155.
House Bill 155 passed the Alaska House of Representatives on May 13, 2021, by a vote of 38 – 2. The Alaska State Senate passed the bill on Sunday, May 15, 2022, by a unanimous vote of 15 – 0. HB 155 will be sent to Governor Mike Dunleavy for his signature.