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National Crime Victim Law Institute

What does it take to help a crime victim?

November 04, 2011

 Less than one week before trial, an attorney in Pennsylvania asked NCVLI for help. 

As the child-victim of sexual abuse was bravely trying to brace for the trial of his abuser (his own father), the defense counsel subpoenaed the notes of the child-victim’s guardian ad litem (GAL) (a GAL is a representative appointed by a court to represent a child in legal proceedings).  The defense alleged that the notes revealed a conversation in which the child-victim had recanted the allegation that his father had abused him. 

Knowing that privacy is critical to victims and to their ability to begin to heal, the attorney sought to quash the subpoena.  Unfortunately, the attorney had been unable to find any authority to support his argument that the conversation was privileged and confidential and therefore not subject to disclosure.  That’s when the attorney reached out to NCVLI. 

NCVLI’s legal team jumped right in.  Over the course of an afternoon multiple attorneys and a Lewis & Clark Law Student enrolled in the Crime Victim Litigation Clinic analyzed and researched the issue and found support for the proposition that under Pennsylvania law the GAL and the child-victim had an attorney-client relationship, making the conversation privileged.

The defense withdrew the subpoena!  Because of legal advocacy, the child-victim need not face the additional trauma of having his private conversations intruded upon.


NCVLI is committed to engaging our community to leverage our resources - pro bono attorneys and law students training under the supervision of NCVLI attorneys support our work, bringing our costs down.  A $200 donation will provide over $400 in legal time to help support a child navigating the criminal justice system.  To make a gift supporting NCVLI’s work for victims today, click here. 

Learn more about our Safeguarding Child-Victims’ Rights Initiative by clicking here.  To request technical assistance, click here.