May 7, 2010
8th Circuit Refuses to Exercise Jurisdiction in Frozen Embryo Case
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently issued a ruling refusing jurisdiction in a frozen embryo case. Patricia Dodson (formerly Patricia Lay) and Dr. Jackson Lay were married when they enrolled in an IVF program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Their participation in the program resulted in 18 cryogenically frozen embryos which were stored at UAMS. After the parties divorced, Dodson asked UAMS to implant the embryos into her. UAMS refused to do so until Dodson received Lay's written consent. When he denied it, UAMS told Lay that her only options were embryo destruction, use of the embryos for medical research, or a transfer/adoption by another couple. Dodson filed suit in Arkansas state court, seeking an order that she had the right (pursuant to language in her divorce decree) to choose among those options or implantation. The Arkansas court held that UAMS held sole control over the embryos after the parties' divorce.
After litigating the matter in state court for nearly 10 years, Dodson filed suit in federal district court. The federal district court and the USCA for the 8th Circuit both held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the federal courts from exercising jurisdiction in favor of "a state court loser seeking victory against his adversary in a subsequent section 1983 action in federal court."
Read the opinion here.
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