Sunday, October 25, 2015

Child Representatives Enjoy Absolute Immunity

In Davidson v. Gurewitz (October 20, 2015) (here), the Appellate Court, Second District, held that a child representative appointed under section 506(a) of the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act enjoys absolute immunity from malpractice liability.

Pursuant to section 506(a)(3), the trial court appointed Thomas Gurewitz as the child representative of the divorcing parent’s minor child. After the trial court entered the judgment of dissolution, the mother sued Gurewitz for malpractice. The mother claimed that Gurewitz completed his duties as a child representative on October 1, 2012, when the parties entered into a parenting agreement that settled all issues relating to the best interests of the child. The plaintiff further alleged that instead of withdrawing from the case after completing his duties, Gurewitz participated in the trial by cross-examining the plaintiff and making a closing argument. According to the malpractice complaint, Gurewitz’s unauthorized actions resulted in the entry of a judgment “replete and filled with vindictiveness relating to [plaintiff].”

Gurewitz moved to dismiss the malpractice action arguing that it was barred by the doctrine of absolute immunity. The appellate court acknowledged that section 506(a) does not, by its terms, immunize child representatives. But the court determined that the common law affords immunity to court-appointed child representatives. Thus, the Second District aligned itself with the First District’s decision in Vlastelica v. Brend (here), finding that absolute immunity is necessary so that a child representative can “fulfill his obligations without worry of harassment and intimidation from dissatisfied parents.”

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