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Name: In re James F.
Case #: S150316
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 01/17/2008

A juvenile court’s error in procedure used to appoint a guardian ad litem is subject to harmless error analysis. In this case, the California Supreme Court granted review to determine whether a juvenile court’s error in the procedure used to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the incompetent parent in a dependency proceeding required automatic reversal of the order terminating his parental rights or whether the error was subject to a harmless error analysis. The Court concluded that error in the procedure appointing a GAL is a trial error amenable to a harmless error analysis rather than a structural defect requiring reversal. Here, any error in the procedure by which the court appointed the GAL for father caused him no actual prejudice. All the evidence pointed to the conclusion that father was incompetent and in need of a GAL, and would likely have consented to the appointment.