R.L.R, a dependent young adult, filed a petition for writ of mandamus to compel the trial court to reverse its order directing his attorneys ad litem to disclose juvenile whereabouts after he had run away.
R.L.R. had been appointed two attorneys ad litem to represent him. The attorneys representing him refused to disclose his whereabouts after he had run away from a Department of Children and Families (department) placement. The attorneys obtained that information on R.L.R’s location from the R.L.R during the course of representation and were instructed that the information be kept confidential and was not to be disclosed. The trial court ordered the attorneys ad litem to disclose the location of R.L.R. holding the disclosure was required “for the proper administration of justice.”
The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) held there was no “dependency exception” for an attorney ad litem representing a child in a dependency case. R.L.R. did not give his consent to disclose the information and the need for the information did not fall under the attorney-client confidentiality exceptions such as preventing a crime, death, or bodily harm to another, which are the only exceptions for disclosure under the rule. Rule 4-1.6 of the Florida Bar
“The Attorneys ad Litem are independent of the GAL program and were appointed to provide legal representation to R.L.R. pursuant to Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.217. Rule 8.217(c) specifically states that “the attorney ad litem shall have the responsibilities provided by law.” The comments to Rule 4-1.2 of The Florida Rules of Professional Conduct state that, as part of those responsibilities provided by law, “regardless of the circumstances, a lawyer providing limited representation forms an attorney-client relationship with the litigant, and owes the client all attendant ethical obligations and duties imposed by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, including, but not limited to, duties of competence, communication, confidentiality and avoidance of conflicts of interest.” Rule 4-1.2, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar (2012). Therefore, the attorneys appointed to represent R.L.R., even if such representation is limited, have an attorney-client relationship with R.L.R. and are bound by the rules of confidentiality of information which regulate all attorneys in the state of Florida.”
The Third DCA granted R.L.R.’s petition and quashed the trial court’s order which compelled “the court-appointed Attorneys ad Litem to breach their attorney-client privilege and disclose the whereabouts of their client.”