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Document Type

Article

Abstract

There are five general types of ombudsmen: classical, executive, corporate, educational, and newspaper. The first two types are appointed by governmental entities, while the last three are associated with private organizations. The American Bar Association has identified a sixth type of ombudsman, the advocate, whose responsibility it is to protect a vulnerable population, such as children or residents of long-term care facilities. But because the advocate ombudsman is appointed by the government, he or she is either a legislative or an executive ombudsman, and there is no reason to create a separate category. As the ombudsman concept has spread, professional organizations have formed to support practitioners. Ethics and standards of practice have been accepted by those in the field. Unfortunately, these ethical standards will not withstand the realities of litigation in California. Even in jurisdictions where a general legislative ombudsman has been adopted, legal pitfalls inherent in the accepted ethical standards are so serious that strict compliance would land an ombudsman in serious trouble. So, what's an ethical ombudsman to do? After reviewing the characteristics of each type of ombudsman and identifying the legal and practical barriers to ethical compliance, this article will consider what claims of privilege or methods of practice will allow maximum ethical practice with minimum exposure to legal penalties, and will offer tips for moving forward.