This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






Marvin D. Pirila,


Annette Jantzen, et al.,


Filed September 16, 2003

Affirmed; motion granted

Stoneburner, Judge


St. Louis County District Court

File No. C3-02-603400


Marvin Pirila, 107 15th Street, Cloquet, MN 55720-1909 (pro se appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Kari Jo Ferguson, Assistant Attorney General, Suite 1100, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondents)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




            On appeal from the dismissal of his lawsuit against respondents, guardian ad litem Annette Jantzen and guardian ad litem program coordinator Sara Lucas, appellant Marvin D. Pirila argues that immunity does not protect respondents from his claims.  Because appellant has not alleged that the respondents exceeded their authority as guardians ad litem, they are entitled to absolute immunity and we affirm.  Respondents’ motion to strike the contents of appellant’s supplements and references to the supplements is granted because those documents are not part of the record.



            A guardian ad litem is absolutely immune from liability for acts within the scope of that guardian’s exercise of statutory responsibilities.  Tindell v. Rogosheske, 428 N.W.2d 386 (Minn. 1988) (Tindell II).   Appellant alleges that the respondents “were responsible for false statements and a deliberate neglect of duties that only served to mislead the court into an unjust [custody] decision.”  All of the damages asserted by appellant in this action are related to the district court’s custody determination, which he is separately appealing.

            In Tindell II, Tindell, like appellant, alleged that a guardian ad litem failed to perform the duties of a guardian ad litem.  Id.  Affirming the extension of judicial immunity to guardians ad litem, the supreme court stated:  

                        We think it is critical to view the role of the guardian in the context in which the responsibilities imposed upon the individual arise.  A guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to protect the best interests of the child in the particular proceeding in which the child is involved. . . .


                        . . .  A guardian must be free, in furtherance of the goal for which the appointment was made, to engage in a vigorous and autonomous representation of the child.  Immunity is necessary to avoid harassment from disgruntled parents who may take issue with any or all of the guardian’s actions.


Id. at 387.  

            This court explained the purpose of extending judicial immunity to quasi-judicial officers as resting “on the theory that persons who are integral to the judicial process must be able to perform their functions without the intimidating effect of potential lawsuits.”  Tindell v. Rogosheske, 421 N.W.2d 340, 341 (Minn. App. 1988) (Tindell I), aff’d 428 N.W.2d 386 (Minn. 1968).  Appellant argues that the respondents are not entitled to official immunity because they fell so far short of performing their duties that they never “became involved to any extent that would constitute an integral part of the judicial system” entitling them to immunity.  Although we are sympathetic to appellant’s frustration with the apparent non-performance of respondents in this case, we disagree that appellant’s claims involve acts that fall outside of the scope of the statutory responsibilities of guardians ad litem and hence outside the scope of their absolute immunity. 

            Appellant asserts that respondent Jantzen’s failure to investigate resulted in false reports to the district court made with the intent to assist his ex-wife, but there is nothing in the limited record before us to support the claim of false statements or that would take this claim outside of the scope of the statutory duties of a guardian ad litem.[1]  See Tindell I, 421 N.W.2d at 342 (rejecting argument that idle guardians ad litem should not be protected by immunity).           

            Appellant asserts that he was harmed because of an alleged conflict of interest that respondents failed to disclose.  The alleged conflict of interest is that respondent Jantzen provided childcare services for the Woman’s Coalition meetings that were attended by his ex-wife and cared for appellant’s children while his ex-wife attended those meetings.  Appellant also argues that respondents failed to consider the best interests of the children and failed to perform their duties adequately.  Again, the limited record before us does support the assertions or take these claims outside of the scope of immunity.  As we noted in Tindell I, “absolute immunity may occasionally cause hardship [but] guardians ad litem must be protected against civil litigation challenging the performance of their duties.”  Id.

            Appellant also argues that his motion for a default judgment should have been granted because respondents did not timely answer his summons and complaint.  The district court implicitly denied appellant’s motion by granting respondents’ motion to dismiss.  On the record before us we cannot determine the exact timelines involved, but respondents concede that their motion to dismiss was at least one day late. 

            Whether a default judgment should have been granted is evaluated under the four-part test for vacating default judgments pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02.  See Thayer v. Am. Fin. Advisors, Inc., 322 N.W.2d 599, 601 (Minn. 1982).  And the standard of review for a decision on a motion to vacate a default judgment is abuse of discretion.  Foerster v.  Folland, 498 N.W.2d 459, 460 (Minn. 1993); see also Thayer, 322 N.W.2d at 602 (indicating that court acted within discretion when it declined to grant default judgment).

            Generally, a party seeking to set aside a default judgment must show that: (1) there is a reasonable defense on the merits; (2) there was a reasonable excuse for delay; (3) the party acted with due diligence after notice of entry of judgment; and (4) no substantial prejudice will result to the opposing party.  Riemer v. Zahn, 420 N.W.2d 659, 661 (Minn. App. 1988).  In this case, respondents have asserted absolute immunity, a reasonable defense on the merits.    Due diligence is not an issue because appellant’s motion for default judgment was filed after he was served with respondents’ motion to dismiss, and appellant has failed to demonstrate that the delay caused him any substantial prejudice. Respondents assert the Thanksgiving Day holiday as an excuse for the delay.

            We have frequently reversed denial of a motion to vacate a default judgment where the defaulting party’s weak excuse for failing to timely answer was outweighed by a strong showing on the three remaining factors.  See Reimer, 420 N.W.2d at 662; see also Valley View, Inc. v. Schutte, 399 N.W.2d 182, 186 (Minn. App. 1987) (finding weak showing on reasonable excuse factor outweighed by other three factors), review denied (Minn. Nov. 13, 1987).  Because respondents in this case have made a strong showing on at least three factors, the district court did not abuse its discretion by failing to grant appellant’s motion for a default judgment.

            Appellant argues that his due process rights were violated in the custody proceeding because respondents were not available for cross-examination.  That claim, however, is not relevant to the issue of respondents’ entitlement to absolute immunity in this action.

            Respondents have moved to strike the contents of appellant’s supplements and references to the supplements because they are not part of the record.  Only a transcript of the hearing on respondents’ motion to dismiss from this lawsuit is in the record.  Copies of the custody hearing transcript reproduced in appellant’s supplements are not part of the record in this case.  “The court will strike documents included in a party’s brief that are not part of the appellate record.”  Fabio v. Bellomo, 489 N.W.2d 241, 246 (Minn. App. 1992), aff’d, 504 N.W.2d 758 (Minn. 1993).  Respondents’ motion to strike is granted.

            Affirmed; motion granted.


[1] Appellant attempted to provide the transcripts from the custody proceeding for this court in his supplements, but we cannot consider those transcripts because they were not properly submitted to the district court.  The record before us includes only limited information regarding the custody proceeding, including respondent Jantzen’s preliminary one-page report and some notes apparently written by appellant and his ex-wife.