Social Services, Department of; filing of petitions by designated nonattorney employees. (HB589)

Introduced By

Del. Jeff Campbell (R-Marion)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Filing of petitions by designated nonattorney Department of Social Services employees. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/11/2016Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/13/16 16103955D
01/11/2016Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/14/2016Assigned to sub: Subcommittee Civil Law
01/14/2016Assigned App. sub: Subcommittee Civil Law
01/14/2016Assigned Courts sub:
01/14/2016Impact statement from DPB (HB589)
01/20/2016Subcommittee recommends reporting with amendment(s) (9-Y 0-N)
01/27/2016Reported from Courts of Justice with substitute (22-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
01/27/2016Committee substitute printed 16104108D-H1
01/29/2016Read first time
02/01/2016Read second time
02/01/2016Committee substitute agreed to 16104108D-H1
02/01/2016Engrossed by House - committee substitute HB589H1
02/02/2016Read third time and passed House (93-Y 4-N)
02/02/2016VOTE: PASSAGE (93-Y 4-N) (see vote tally)
02/03/2016Constitutional reading dispensed
02/03/2016Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
02/04/2016Impact statement from DPB (HB589H1)
02/24/2016Passed by indefinitely in Courts of Justice (6-Y 3-N) (see vote tally)
02/29/2016Reconsidered by Courts of Justice
03/08/2016Left in Courts of Justice


Dave Briggman writes:

Can the General Assembly be so collectively stupid so as to let ever more social workers engage in the practice of law, with absolutely no regulation, in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts of the Commonwealth?

The civil subcommittee appears to be the indicator that, yes, they're that stupid.

Dave Briggman writes:

Illegal and unconstitutional attempt to apply this 2016 statute retroactively:

See §63.2-332 amendment:

"2. That all petitions or motions filed by nonattorney employees of local departments of social services pursuant to this act prior to July 1, 2016 are hereby valid."

You can't make pleadings or orders that were invalid at the time of their filing presumably valid by legislative act.

John L. Basan, Jr., Esq. writes:

HB0589 seems to have received little forethought and consideration and is sailing through the legislature. As a practicing attorney with a juvenile and family law practice, this bill absolutely undermine the orderly practice of law in Virginia and drastically expands the practice of law by non-attorney employees of the Deparentire of Social Services. This is a disaster.

In my experience, the proposed types of filings this bill propose to allow non-attorneys to perform, such as rules to show cause for contempt, or motions to end or review orders, etc., often require exercise of complex legal judgments and understanding of law, which is unlikely to be found in the background and training of most DSS social workers, no matter how experienced or conscientious.

Furthermore, since social workers are not attorneys, they are not bound by the same ethical standards of practice as Virginia State Bar members and thus accountability is lacking and review of the conduct of this new class of "quasi-lawyers" is beyond the review of the Supreme Court and Bar. This leaves only statutory sanctions, which are limited in application and not appropriate in many cases of misjudgment or incompetence.

Basically, with little or no forethought, the legislature is poised to create a class of quasi-lawyers in Virginia to draft and file petitions and motions on complex issues effecting citizens lives profoundly, without adequate training and accountability.I hope someone puts the brakes on this.

Finally, from the standpoint of malpractice and frivolous pleadings, if one of these social workers makes a grievous error, who can I sue or sanction? and what are the standards of applicable ethical conduct? Because, I assure all concerned, there will be many more mistakes and major errors in litigation based on non-attorney filings of thousands of new petitions and motions annually.

John L. Bauserman, Jr., Esq. writes:

The prior comment incorrectly shows my name as John "Basan" instead of "Bauserman." So this notice will correct that typo.

John L. Bauserman, Jr., Esq. writes:

Kindly forgive the grammar and syntax errors of the above post, made from my mobile phone.

I agree with the prior commentator, Dave Briggman, in that the bill purports to retroactively validate prior filings of these type and nature by non-attorneys.
Such prior proceedings and all orders resulting therefrom are legal nullities under Virginia Law. Any attempt to retroactively validate such proceedings and orders issued in proceedings based upon motions filed by non-attorneys would appear to be void an initio and any attempt to retroactively validate same is per second unconstitutional if it effects the rights of private citizens. I don't see how the legislature can condone this.