This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Jeffrey Andrew Matiatos,
The State of
Filed October 18, 2005
Washington County District Court
File No. C6-04-5342
Jeffrey Andrew Matiatos,
Mike Hatch, Attorney General,
John S. Garry, Assistant Attorney General, 1100
Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
F A C T S
Matiatos is a respondent in two proceedings for which the district court
appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) to protect the interests of his minor
children—a marriage-dissolution action and a child-in-need-of-protective-services
(CHIPS) proceeding. The order appointing
the GAL states, “The [c]ourt may order either or both parties to reimburse
Anne Olson, coordinator of the GAL program, sent the district court a statement documenting the twenty hours the GAL worked, the hourly rate of $40, and the total cost of $800. She also included a proposed order that set forth the $800 fee and included options for the judge’s determination on who should pay the fees. The district court required Matiatos to pay one-half the total fees but did not require the children’s mother to pay any fees.
Matiatos contacted the GAL program about the order because he believed that the program erroneously attributed GAL hours to the dissolution case instead of to the CHIPS proceeding. Joan Elstran, a clerk in the GAL program, reviewed the hours and revised the program’s statement to accurately reflect the division of hours between the two cases. Olson then submitted the revised statement for $120 and a proposed order to the district court. The court ordered Matiatos to pay $60, one-half the total fees, but did not require the children’s mother to pay any fees.
Matiatos again contacted the GAL program and told them that the district court should not require him to pay any fees because both he and the children’s mother were proceeding in forma pauperis; he did not, however, contact the district court to question his responsibility for the GAL fees. The Washington County Financial Services Department attempted to enforce the fee orders. In response, Matiatos filed a motion to vacate both orders. The district court determined that Matiatos was incapable of paying the GAL fees and granted his motion to vacate the orders.
In September 2004 Matiatos sued the
The state, on behalf of Olson and Elstran, moved to dismiss the action on the ground that they had acted in a quasi-judicial capacity and were immune from liability. The state also moved for dismissal on behalf of the Washington County GAL Program and on its own behalf, asserting that, as a result of their employees’ immunity, the GAL program and the state were vicariously immune. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, and the state, the GAL program, Olson, and Elstran appeal.
D E C I S I O N
The applicability of an immunity defense is a
question of law subject to de novo review. Johnson v.
State, 553 N.W.2d 40, 45 (
Judicial immunity, which is directed at
protecting the judicial process, extends to quasi-judicial officers. Gammel
v. Ernst & Ernst, 245
Quasi-judicial immunity is “contingent not on
the status but on the particular function of the [official].” Kipp v.
Saetre, 454 N.W.2d 639, 643 (
Quasi-judicial acts are “presumably the
product or result of investigation, consideration, and deliberate human
judgment based upon evidentiary facts of some sort commanding the exercise of
their discretionary power.” City of
The district court concluded that the GAL program, Olson, and Elstran were not entitled to absolute immunity because their conduct did not fall within the scope of the duties as defined by statute or court rules. We disagree.
The primary damages alleged in Matiatos’s complaint are for “fear and intimidation, financial oppression, anxiety, anger, emotional distress and anguish” that he asserts were caused by the attempts to enforce the district court’s orders. Although it is unfortunate that the district court did not obtain the information on Matiatos’s inability to pay before the fees were reduced to judgment, Matiatos acknowledges in his pleading that the GAL employees told him that he should contact the judge. And any actions by the GAL program that contributed to the Washington County Financial Services Department’s collection efforts were in furtherance of the district court’s orders, and, consequently, the GAL program is immune from liability for those actions. Kipp, 454 N.W.2d at 643. The remaining damages are alleged to flow from Olson’s and Elstran’s actions in submitting the fee information that enabled the court to make the cost determination. Because the submission of the fee information and the proposed order is for the purpose of assisting the court in fulfilling its mandatory obligation under the statute, the GAL officials were performing an action that is an integral part of the judicial process. The GAL officials are therefore protected by quasi-judicial immunity.
When employees of a state program are immune
from liability for the alleged negligent performance of their duties, their
immunity extends to the program and to the state as an entity. Carradine
v. State, 511 N.W.2d 733, 737 (