Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Case Law Development: Father Trying to Make a Federal Case Out of His Child Support Orders Faces Immunities, and State Action Doctine Bars
Ordinarily when a federal court hears a case that constitutes, in essence, an attempt to collaterally attack a family law order, it invokes abstention doctrines. (See last year's Family Law Prof Blog post on the subject) In a recent case before the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, the court instead analyzed each of a father's numerous causes of action under federal statutes (civil rights, RICO, etc.) and pendent state-law claims (intentional infliction of emotional distress) brought against state judges, child support enforcement attorneys, court-appointed mediators, judicial administrators, the governor and his wife's attorney (I may have missed some there but you get the picture).
The opinion is a short course in immunities (with the court dismissing numerous defendants under doctrines of sovereign immunity and judicial and quasi-judicial, and prosecutorial immunity). The analysis of immunity of court-appointed mediators may be especially interesting to some readers. I found the opinion striking for its extraordinary degree of respectful consideration given to the pro se litigant, as the court carefully examined and then dismissed each of the plaintiff's claims, without any perjorative characterizations of his attempts to seek the court's intervention.
Joynes v. Meconi, 2006 US Dist LEXIS 71296 (September 30, 2006)
Opinion on web (last visited October 8, 2006 bgf)