UTAH STATE BAR
ETHICS ADVISORY OPINION COMMITTEE
Opinion No. 13-03
Issued September 11, 2013
1. Whether a lawyer violates her duty to diligently represent a client who wishes to appeal a juvenile court’s order, but refuses to sign the Notice of Appeal (which will be dismissed without appellant’s signature pursuant to statute) due to her diminished capacity.
2. Under Rule 1.14, if the lawyer believes the client is at risk of substantial harm unless action is taken and cannot adequately act in the client’s own interest, the lawyer should take reasonable steps to protect the client’s interests.
3. Lawyer has defended Client’s parental rights in child welfare proceedings. Client has been found permanently criminally incompetent and was receiving extensive services through Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD). DSPD determined that Client has diminished capacity. Lawyer has always been able to effectively communicate with Client and has defended Client’s parental rights in accordance with her wishes. The State filed a Verified Petition for Termination of Parental Rights, and Lawyer represented Client at trial. On four occasions—at the beginning of trial, during trial, and after the Court ruled to terminate Client’s parental rights—Lawyer advised Client of her right to an appeal and advised Client that she would be required to sign a Notice of Appeal. On all four occasions, Client indicated she would refuse to sign anything but wanted to appeal. Utah Code Ann. § 78A-6-1109 requires an appellant’s signature on every Notice of Appeal from a juvenile court order. If the Notice of Appeal is submitted without signature, the appeal is dismissed and the appellant loses his or her right to the appeal. Lawyer filed a Motion for Extension of Time and an Affidavit of Diligence and awaits a response from the Court.