Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CA-1898-98) (Hon. A. Franklin Burgess, Jr., Trial Judge)
Before Wagner, Chief Judge, Glickman, Associate Judge, and Nebeker, Senior
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wagner, Chief Judge
Submitted September 27, 2001
The question presented in this appeal, one of first impression in this jurisdiction, is whether a guardian ad litem appointed by the court for a party in a civil action may be compensated from the Guardianship Fund established pursuant to D.C. Code § 21-2060 (2003). We hold that in order to receive compensation from the Guardianship Fund, a guardian ad litem must render services pursuant to the Guardianship, Protective Proceedings and Durable Power of Attorney Act of 1986 (G uardianship Act) (as amended), D.C. Code §§ 21-2001, -2085 (2003), in a guardianship or protective proceeding or in connection with a guardianship or protective arrangement. Appellant, James E. Sullivan, does not meet these statutory requirements; therefore, we affirm the trial court's decision denying him compensation from the Guardianship Fund.
Pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. R. 17 (c), *fn1 the trial court appointed appellant, James E. Sullivan, to serve as guardian ad litem for Brenda Carey Plummer in two cases pending in Superior Court. In the first action, Civil Action No. 1898-98, Ms. Plummer, along with Charles Brewster Squires, Jr., filed a complaint against the District of Columbia, the District of Columbia General Hospital, certain doctors, security firms and security personnel alleging claims of medical malpractice and assault and battery, among others. In the second case, Civil Action No. 3541-98, Ms. Plummer was a named defendant. The District filed a motion to dismiss or alternatively for summary judgment in the first case. Based upon the allegations in the complaint and the representations of Mr. Squires that Ms. Plummer might be incapacitated, the trial court determined that a guardian ad litem should be appointed for her and appointed appellant to act in that capacity. Less than two weeks later, the court also appointed appellant as the guardian ad litem in the second case, Civil Action No. 3541-98.
In the order appointing appellant as the guardian ad litem, the trial court ordered the guardian ad litem to determine whether Ms. Plummer was competent to proceed with the action and to file a written report of his findings. The court also ordered the guardian ad litem to appear for a status hearing to report his findings on this issue. Appellant prepared a written report and appeared for the scheduled hearing as ordered. The guardian ad litem reported that Ms. Plummer had been diagnosed with "Major Depression with psychotic features," including auditory hallucinations, and that she had been hospitalized numerous times for psychiatric treatment. He reported that her records for the past two years demonstrated her profound inability to follow-up with her treatment. Drug abuse complicated her condition. She missed medical appointments, and she was unable to participate meaningfully in consultations with her psychiatrist and case manager and failed to secure her medication. The guardian ad litem reported that Ms. Plummer's level of emotional and behavioral functioning was very unstable.
After the hearing, the trial court found that Ms. Plummer was not competent to proceed with her lawsuit, and the court ordered appellant to continue as the guardian ad litem. Appellant continued as the guardian ad litem, and he prepared an opposition to a motion to dismiss Ms. Plummer's complaint and filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint on her behalf. The trial court denied the District's motion to dismiss the assault and battery claim, but dismissed the claims for breach of contract and failure to provide a safe environment. The court also denied the District's motion to dismiss for failure to provide statutory notice, under D.C. Code § 12-309 (1999) and proper service. Appellant filed a motion to withdraw as the guardian ad litem because he was concerned about his investment of resources in the case and whether he would be compensated for his efforts. The first action, Civil Action No. 1898-98, was settled and dismissed as to the District, D.C. General Hospital and the individual defendants, and the second case, Civil Action No. 3541- 98, was dismissed. *fn2 The trial court granted the guardian ad litem's motion to dismiss.
Subsequently, appellant filed a petition for compensation as guardian ad litem. He requested compensation in the amount of $2,962.50 plus costs of $20.18 from the Guardianship Fund pursuant to D.C. Code § 21-2060 (a). After a hearing on the matter, the trial court initially granted the petition for compensation; however, the payment was refused by the fiscal office. The trial court notified appellant that it was reconsidering whether it had the authority to order compensation from the Guardianship Fund pursuant to D.C. Code § 21- 2060. Thereafter, the trial court held that it lacked authority to order compensation for appellant from the Guardianship Fund because he did not provide services in any of the proceedings specified in the statute as a prerequisite for com pensation. Further, the court concluded that he was not eligible for compensation from the Guardianship Fund for the services which he performed. In reaching its conclusion, the trial court reviewed the relevant statutory provisions of the Guardianship Act. Finally, the court stated:
A guardian ad litem appointed pursuant to Civil Rule 17 (c) may be compensated, but ordinarily that compensation comes from the estate of the ward, either one already accumulated or one created by a recovery in the case. See, e.g., Mitchell v. Ensor, 412 F.2d 155 (App. D.C. 1969); Bradley v. Pace, 183 F.2d 806 (App. D.C. 1950); 6A WRIGHT, MILLER & KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 1570.
Appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying him compensation from the Guardianship Fund. Specifically, he contends that he rendered services as the guardian ad litem in a protective arrangement within the meaning of the Guardianship Act. He contends on appeal, as he did in the trial court, that his services were rendered in connection with a "protective arrangement" within the meaning of D.C. Code § 21-2056 (2003), which includes "payment, delivery, deposit or retention of funds or property" on behalf of an incapacitated person. The District argues in response that since the services were rendered in a civil action for monetary damages, appellant is not entitled to compensation from the Guardianship Fund.
It contends that compensation for the services of a guardian ad litem are authorized under the Guardianship Act only for services rendered in specified proceedings or arrangements, i.e., guardianship proceedings, protective proceedings and protective arrangements. It contends that appellant's services were not rendered in any of these matters. Disposition of these arguments depends upon an interpretation of the statute under which such compensation is authorized. Therefore, we outline first the rules of statutory construction before turning to consideration of the applicable statutory provisions in this case.
"'The primary and general rule of statutory construction is that the intent of the lawmaker is to be found in the language that he has used.'" Peoples Drug Stores v. District of Columbia, 470 A.2d 751, 753 (D.C. 1983) (quoting Varela v. Hi-Lo Powered Stirrups, Inc., 424 A.2d 61, 64 (D.C. 1980) (en banc) (in turn quoting United States v. Goldenberg, 168 U.S. 95, 102-03 (1897)). Therefore, in determining the meaning of a statute, we must examine first its language to determine if it is "'plain and admits of no more than one meaning.'" Id. (quoting Davis v. United States, 397 A.2d 951, 956 (D.C. 1979)). In examining the statute, we give the words used the meaning ordinarily attributed to them. Davis, 397 A.2d at 956; United States v. Thompson, 347 A.2d 581, 583 (D.C. 1975). "[T]his court will look beyond the ordinary meaning of the words of a statute only w here there are 'persuasive reasons' for doing so." Carter ...