Governor Signs Chiu Bill to Protect the Identities of Undocumented Parents in Court Proceedings

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Measure will allow guardians ad litem to proceed anonymously

SACRAMENTO--Legislation authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to protect the identities of immigrant parents in California courts was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown today. Assembly Bill 2185 will create a standardized process for individuals who petition courts to become a guardian ad litem under a pseudonym and require courts to make specific findings when determining the need for anonymity.  

“We are better served when our entire community feels safe participating in our court system,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “With Trump and his emboldened deportation force, many law-abiding immigrants are wary of reporting crimes or unable to represent the interests of their children. Allowing immigrant parents to receive anonymous status can encourage more people to participate in the judicial system and keep all of our communities safer.”  

Many immigrants are unwilling to take part in a suit or court proceeding for fear of being deported. This dynamic presents a particular challenge for minors with undocumented parents, who represent 12 percent of children in grades K-12 in California. Minors are required to petition the court to have a guardian ad litem, a person appointed to represent the interests of a minor or someone lacking the capacity to make decisions for themselves. Prior laws required that a guardian ad litem be appointed before a summons in a case could be issued.  

Guaranteeing the identity of the parents of these children is protected before legal proceedings begin is necessary to ensure these young people have access to justice. Under prior law, plaintiffs could petition to use a pseudonym only after they had begun proceedings and had already been identified.  

AB 2185 will address this problem by allowing an individual to be appointed as a guardian ad litem and proceed with litigation by filing an ex parte application. The individual must list circumstances that establish an overriding interest to preserve anonymity. If the court determines that a guardian ad litem may proceed with a pseudonym, all documents filed with the court must be written in a manner that protects the name and personal identifying information of the guardian ad litem.

Other states have some formalized processes for allowing plaintiffs to use pseudonyms, but California previously had no such process.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sponsored AB 2185. The law will take effect January 1, 2019.

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