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Matter of Guardianship of C.A.B.

April 24, 1995

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF C.A.B., JR., AND I.B., MINORS.


On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi, Stein and Coleman join in this opinion.

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

IMO GUARDIANSHIP OF C.A.B., JR. AND I.B., MINORS (A-95-94)

Argued March 14, 1995 -- Decided April 24, 1995

PER CURIAM

The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) in the Department of Human Services petitioned the Court primarily to determine whether State or County government is responsible for reimbursing pro bono counsel for incidental litigation expenses in a custody action instituted by DYFS for termination of parental rights.

DYFS is now responsible for the costs of production and copying of transcripts for pro bono counsel to prosecute an appeal. However, DYFS urges the Court not to approve reimbursement to pro bono counsel for other miscellaneous expenses, such as those for delivery services, computerized legal research, parking, travel, and other related expenses. DYFS argues that allowing such expenses would lead to pointless litigation over the reasonableness of those expenses. In this case, pro bono counsel's out-of-pocket expenses totalled $2867.25.

HELD: The expenses incurred by pro bono counsel were not unreasonable and should be reimbursed.

1. Lawyers do not have an obligation to expend their personal funds when undertaking pro bono representation in parental-rights-termination cases. Attorneys who request reimbursement are reasonably entitled to it. Here, the expenses incurred were not unreasonable and should be reimbursed. Because of budgetary concerns, this ruling is applicable to this case and any other cases that have not yet been completed. (pp. 2-4)

2. To the extent possible, pro bono counsel should confer with DYFS before incurring unusual expenses and should attempt to keep incidental expenses at a minimum.

The order of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.

CHIEF JUSTICE WILENTZ and JUSTICES HANDLER, POLLOCK, O'HERN, GARIBALDI, STEIN and COLEMAN join in this opinion.

PER CURIAM

In this matter the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) in the Department of Human Services petitioned the Court primarily to determine whether state or county government is responsible for reimbursing pro bono counsel for incidental litigation expenses in a custody action instituted by DYFS for termination of parental rights. 138 N.J. 268 (1994). The Appellate Division had ordered DYFS to pay pro bono counsel's out-of-pocket expenses in connection with the appeal to that court. When the petition was filed it was uncertain whether state or county government must reimburse counsel for such necessary expenses. N.J.S.A. 2A:152-17 requires counties to pay for trial transcripts in a criminal appeal when the defendant is indigent. That statute, however, was largely superseded by the Public Defender Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:158A-1 to -25, which requires that the Office of the Public Defender pay for trial transcripts for indigents who qualify for assistance. ...


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