Can I Sue a Guardian Ad Litem in my Rhode Island Family Court Case?
July 31, 2019
A Guardian Ad Litem ("GAL") is typically a lawyer that is appointed by the court in a Rhode Island Family Court proceeding to protect the best interests of the minor child or children. After an investigation into the issues before the court, the GAL typically provides a written report that contains his or her investigation, findings, and recommendations for the court to consider. The GAL's report is typically given substantial weight before the court in the case because the court has appointed the GAL to assist the court by performing this investigation and making unbiased recommendations. The GAL's fees are often paid by one or both parties in the action.
A third-party asked if I would answer this question but there is truly no way to answer it the way it may have been intended so I will answer it as it was posed.
Yes, you can file a lawsuit against a GAL. In fact, nothing prevents you from filing a lawsuit against anyone for any reason whatsoever. However, whether that lawsuit will prevail or whether it might be dismissed is another issue entirely. Over the years I have seen people make up fraudulent facts and then file lawsuits based on those facts purely to harass someone, even if they have to legal basis.
The challenge in answering this question is that there are lawsuits are supposed to be based on facts applied to a "valid cause of action" that is recognized by law in order to have any chance of prevailing at all. A lawsuit that is unsupported by the facts or for which there is no legally recognized cause of action typically will fail and will either be dismissed by the court or the court will enter a judgment in favor of the opposing party.
In the case of a lawsuit against a GAL, you will want to consider several things,
1. If you file a lawsuit against the GAL what do you expect to accomplish?
2. Will filing the suit against the GAL make your position in the family court case worse?
3. What are the facts that cause you to want to file suit against the GAL?
4. What causes of action, if any, exist that could be filed against a GAL with the facts that you have?
5. Did you challenge the GAL's report findings and recommendations in the Rhode Island Family Court before filing your lawsuit? The family court is your first level of recourse if you do not approve of the investigation and/or recommendations.
6. What defenses could a GAL assert in his or her defense that might cause your case to be dismissed or diminished?
Without knowing the facts that cause you to want to file your lawsuit, no attorney could determine whether or not you have a recognized cause of action against a GAL or whether those facts support any cause of action against the GAL.
One legal factor to keep in mind and research before filing any action against a GAL is the concept of "judicial immunity." Generally speaking, judicial immunity is the legal principle that judges, magistrates and others acting on behalf of a court should be (and often are) exempt from civil lawsuits if they are acting within the scope of their judicial duties. This principle exists because those acting in a judicial capacity could not theoretically do their jobs impartially and without undue influence from a party if they can be sued in civil court.
It is possible that a GAL by being appointed by a judge to assist the family court with an investigation and recommendations for the Court in best interests of a minor child or children may be considered as acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity and he or she may be protected from civil suits by law.
Ultimately, be sure you understand all the consequences, repercussions and aspects of filing a civil suit against a GAL before you do so. It could do considerably more harm than good.