This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







Isaac Sierra-Dinsmore, a minor, by Julia Dinsmore, his parent and natural guardian,





James DuWayne Noor, et al.,


South Central Children’s Project, et al.,




Filed January 8, 2002


Anderson, Judge


Kandiyohi County District Court

File No.C500832


Patrick M. Spott, Nancy Von Seggern, Orman & Nord Law Offices, 1301 Miller Trunk Highway, Suite 400, Duluth, MN  55811 (for appellant)


Roger L. Rowlette, Susan E. Gustad, Johnson & Lindberg, P.A., 7900 International Drive, Suite 960, Minneapolis, MN 55425-1582 (for respondent Blue Earth County Social Services and South Central Children’s Project)


            Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


            Appellant challenges the district court’s conclusion that Blue Earth County Social Services and South Central Children’s Project (respondents) are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity.  Appellant was housed at the Greater Minnesota Family Services Shelter.  Appellant ran away from the facility and was injured in a car accident and claims, inter alia, negligence on the part of the social service agencies connected with his placement and supervision.  Specifically, appellant claims that respondents were negligent in failing to place him in a secure facility.  The district court dismissed respondents from the litigation on the basis of quasi-judicial immunity.  We affirm.


            Appellant was injured in a car accident after running away from the Greater Minnesota Family Services Shelter (GMFSS) in Willmar, Minnesota.  Appellant had been in the social service system since early 1997.  The state filed a petition for delinquency on April 29, 1998, asserting that appellant obstructed legal process in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(2) (1998).  The state also sought continued judicial detention for appellant because foster care was no longer appropriate.

            A detention hearing was held before the district court in Blue Earth County.  The assistant county attorney argued against placement of appellant in a non-secure facility, because he was a runaway risk.  The assistant county attorney also indicated that arrangements had been made to transfer appellant to Willmar for a psychological evaluation.  Kellie Manderfeld, appellant’s case coordinator and the person who had made the arrangements, was an employee of respondents.  Manderfeld had previously contacted GMFSS and written a letter to the director at GMFSS concerning the placement.  Appellant’s mother, who brings this action on appellant’s behalf, also knew that appellant would be placed at GMFSS and not at a secure facility. 

Manderfeld was not at the continued-detention hearing; it was the appellant’s probation agent who advised the court that the institution to which appellant should be sent was in Willmar, although the agent did not know the name of the facility.  The district court issued a continued-detention order directing that appellant be sent to Willmar “Trmt Ctr for evaluation; return to BE cty upon completion for formal review/detention hearing.” 

            The parties disagree about the meaning of the continued-detention order.  Appellant argues that the order clearly directed respondents to place him at Willmar Regional Treatment Facility (WRTF), even though his mother knew he would be placed at GMFSS.  Appellant argues that because the assistant county attorney and appellant’s probation agent both argued for a secure treatment facility at the detention hearing, WRTF was the district court’s intended facility.  Appellant argues that because GMFSS is not a secure facility, the assistant county attorney and appellant’s probation agent could not have been referring to it at the detention hearing. 

            Respondents argue that the correct reading of the continued-detention order leads to the conclusion that the correct placement was at GMFSS.  Respondents support this conclusion by stating that the plan throughout the proceedings was to place him at GMFSS, a non-secure shelter, as opposed to WRTF. 

            Manderfeld had appellant transferred to GMFSS, and appellant ran away on May 7, 1998.  Appellant and two others stole a truck from Truck Transport.  Appellant, a passenger in the stolen vehicle, was injured during a subsequent high-speed chase involving the Chaska Police Department, and this negligence action against respondents followed.  Respondents moved for summary judgment based on a claim of immunity.  The district court granted this motion, finding that because respondents were exercising discretion in carrying out the judicial continued-detention order, they were entitled to quasi-judicial immunity and summary judgment. 


            Judicial immunity applies to judges and other court officers acting in a quasi-judicial capacity.  See, e.g., Tindell v. Rogosheske, 428 N.W.2d 386, 387 (Minn. 1988); Kipp v. Saetre, 454 N.W.2d 639, 643-44 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. June 26, 1990).  Quasi-judicial immunity is not a new concept in Minnesota law.  Brown v. Dayton Hudson Corp., 314 N.W.2d 210, 214 (Minn. 1981).  Judicial immunity protects judges and other judicial officers, whereas quasi-judicial immunity protects officers of the court, those appointed to carry out the court’s orders, and certain political officers.[1]  Quasi-judicial officials enjoy complete immunity from civil liability for their judicial acts.  See, e.g., Linder v. Foster, 209 Minn. 43, 45-48, 295 N.W. 299, 300-01 (1940) (recognizing the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity and its application to quasi-judicial officers).

The goal of quasi-judicial immunity is to protect the judicial process.  Sloper v. Dodge, 426 N.W.2d 478, 479 (Minn. App. 1988).  More specifically, immunity is meant to protect “the integrity and independence of quasi-judicial officers.”  L & H Airco, Inc. v. Rapistan Corp., 446 N.W.2d 372, 376 (Minn. 1989).  Judicial immunity, and consequently quasi-judicial immunity, only applies to acts conducted within the scope of a judicial function.  See Weseman v. Meeker County, 659 F. Supp. 1571, 1577-78 (D. Minn. 1987). 

            Respondents argue that they are immune from liability for appellant’s injuries because they were acting in accordance with a court order placing appellant in a Willmar treatment facility.  The supreme court has stated:

It would be logically inconsistent for case law to subject to liability those individuals acting pursuant to explicit court directives. To deny the protection of immunity under such circumstances might prompt officers of the court to refuse to obey a judge’s directives for fear of personal liability.

Kipp, 454 N.W.2d at 643.  The problem here, of course, is that the district court’s order was not explicit.  Because a government entity bears the burden of establishing immunity, respondents must show that quasi-judicial immunity applies in these circumstances.  See Doe v. Park Ctr. High Sch., 592 N.W.2d 131, 135 (Minn. App. 1999).

Respondents argue that both Tindell and Myers support application of quasi-judicial immunity in this case.  In Tindell, the court granted immunity to a guardian ad litem, holding that disgruntled parents should not be able to assert a cause of action against a quasi-judicial official acting to represent a child’s best interests.  Tindell, 428 N.W.2d at 387.  Respondents argue that because a caseworker is functionally similar to a guardian ad litem, in that both act to protect children, quasi-judicial immunity should shield a caseworker and the caseworker’s employer from civil liability.  While the comparison is inexact, given the broader range of a caseworker’s responsibilities, the Tindell decision is appropriate here because the risks protected against are similar.

            Respondents also rely on Myers.  In Myers, quasi-judicial immunity was granted to a social worker/therapist.  Myers, 463 N.W.2d at 776.  The court-appointed therapist evaluated three children based on sexual-abuse allegations.  Id. at 774.  The Myers court found that the therapist was protected by quasi-judicial immunity because of the court appointment and because quasi-judicial immunity was designed to protect the integrity of the judicial process.  Id. at 775-76.  The court reasoned that judges and officers of the court must not fear retaliatory civil suits when executing their duties.  Id. at 775.

            Like Myers, respondents here are an “integral” part of the judicial process.  Id. (citations omitted).  Respondents facilitate psychological evaluations, as did the clinic in MyersId. at 774.  The setting and circumstances of Myers are analogous to this case.  As in Myers, the court ordered respondents to take action to have appellant treated.  Id. 

Because the action of placing appellant was part of respondents’ quasi-judicial function and duty, immunity from liability applies here.[2]  Further, because quasi-judicial immunity is designed to avoid judicial second-guessing of the decisions of quasi-judicial officers, immunity also applies.  While the continued-detention order was unclear, respondents’ placement decision was in response to that order.  Respondents’ duty was to interpret the district court’s instructions and implement the continued-detention order.  Therefore, the district court properly held that respondents are protected by quasi-judicial immunity.


[1] SeeDziubak v. Mott, 503 N.W.2d 771, 775-76 (Minn. 1993) (extending immunity from malpractice suits to public defenders, though not to privately-retained defense counsel); L & H Airco, Inc. v. Rapistan Corp., 446 N.W.2d 372, 376-77 (Minn. 1989) (granting immunity to arbitrator even where arbitrator had a conflict of interest); Tindell, 428 N.W.2d at 387 (Minn. 1988) (extending immunity to guardian ad litem, who acted as officer of court and must be free to present vigorous and autonomous representation of child’s best interests); DePalma v. Rosen, 294 Minn. 11, 15-16, 199 N.W.2d 517, 519-20 (1972) (finding city council members immune); Gammel v. Ernst & Ernst, 245 Minn. 249, 254-55, 72 N.W.2d 364, 368 (1955) (recognizing quasi-judicial immunity for arbitrators); see also Myers through Myers v. Price, 463 N.W.2d 773, 776 (Minn. App. 1990) (court-appointed therapist and his clinic found immune under quasi-judicial immunity doctrine), review denied (Minn. Feb. 4, 1991); Kipp, 454 N.W.2d at 642-44 (Minn. App. 1990) (extending immunity to prosecutor and probation officer who acted in accordance with judge’s determination that no probation revocation hearing was necessary), review denied (Minn. June 26, 1990).

[2] We hold that because Manderfeld is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity as the referring caseworker, so too are respondents as her employers.  As the Minnesota federal district court has stated:

Under the doctrine of vicarious quasi-judicial immunity, a county “which employs an officer also enjoys the quasi-judicial immunity of that officer for the acts of that officer.” Lutheran Day Care v. Snohomish Cty., 829 P.2d 746, 746 (Wash. 1992); In re Scott County Master Docket, 618 F. Supp. 1534, 1575 (D. Minn. 1985); aff’d in part and rev’d in part, Myers v. Morris, 810 F.2d 1437 (8th Cir. 1987); Myers v. Price, 463 N.W.2d 773, 776 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

Kent v. Todd County, 2001 WL 228433, *9 (D. Minn. 2001).