J.M. v. Liberty Union High School District

Filing 10

Order by Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler granting 3 Motion to Appoint Guardian ad litem. (lblc1S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/16/2016)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 San Francisco Division United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 J. M., Case No. 16-cv-05225-LB Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 15 LIBERTY UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT, 16 ORDER GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S PETITION FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM Re: ECF No. 3 Defendant. 17 INTRODUCTION 18 This case arises from a high school disciplinary action involving a student with ADHD and the 19 20 defendant-district’s subsequent administrative review.1 J.M., a minor child with ADHD and the 21 plaintiff here, was involved in a verbal altercation and a subsequent threatening confrontation with 22 another student.2 “J.M. was immediately suspended and [Liberty Union High School District] 23 moved to expel him.”3 Through the expulsion process, the District concluded that “J.M.’s conduct 24 25 See generally Compl. — ECF No. 1. Record citations refer to material in the Electronic Case File (“ECF”); pinpoint citations are to the ECF-generated page numbers at the top of documents. 26 1 27 2 Id. ¶15. 28 3 Id. ORDER — No. 16-cv-05225-LB 1 was not caused by nor did it have a direct and substantial relationship to J.M.’s [AHDH].”4 J.M. 2 sued to challenge this determination, which was upheld in a District administrative proceeding.5 Now before the court is J.M.’s petition to appoint a guardian ad litem.6 J.M. has no general 3 4 guardian and seeks to appoint D.M. (his mother).7 M.M. (his father) agrees that D.M. should be 5 appointed as guardian ad litem.8 6 7 GOVERNING LAW 8 “A minor or an incompetent person who does not have a duly appointed representative may 9 sue by a next friend or by a guardian ad litem. The court must appoint a guardian ad litem — or issue another appropriate order — to protect a minor or incompetent person who is unrepresented 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 in an action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c)(2).9 An individual’s capacity to sue is determined by the law of 12 the individual’s domicile. Id. 17(b). Under California law, an individual under the age of eighteen 13 is a minor. Cal. Fam. Code § 6500. A minor may bring suit as long as a guardian conducts the 14 proceedings and the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to protect the minor’s interests in the 15 litigation. Id. § 6601; Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 372(a); Williams v. Super. Ct., 147 Cal. App. 4th 36, 16 47 (2007). The court “has broad discretion in ruling on a guardian ad litem application.” Williams v. 17 18 Super. Ct., 147 Cal. App. 4th 36, 47 (2007). In the case of parent representatives, “‘[w]hen there is 19 a potential conflict between a perceived parental responsibility and an obligation to assist the court 20 4 Id. ¶ 16. 5 Id. ¶¶ 16, 22. 22 6 Petition for Appointment of Guardian ad Litem — ECF No. 3. 23 7 Id. at 1. 8 Id. 21 24 “A ‘next friend’ who initiates suit in federal court bears the burden of proving his suitability according to three general factors that are independent of the law of the forum state. These factors are: 1) An adequate explanation of why the minor may not bring suit himself; 2) a true dedication to the best interest of the minor; and 3) some significant relationship with the minor.” Anthem Life Ins. Co. v. Olguin, No. 1:06-cv-01165, 2007 WL 1390672, at *2 (E.D. Cal. May 9, 2007) (citing T.W. v. Brophy, 954 F. Supp. 1306, 1309 (E.D. Wis.1996), aff’d, 124 F.3d 893, 896–97 (7th Cir. 1997)). “It appears to be the common practice to appoint a parent to act as next friend for a child.” Anthem Life Ins. Co., 2007 WL 1390672, at *2 (citing Gonzalez v. Reno, 212 F.3d 1338, 1352 (11th Cir. 2000)). 9 25 26 27 28 ORDER — No. 16-cv-05225-LB 2 1 in achieving a just and speedy determination of the action,’ a court has the right to select a 2 guardian ad litem who is not a parent if that guardian would best protect the child’s interests.” Id. 3 at 49 (quoting M.S. v. Wermers, 557 F.2d 170, 175 (8th Cir. 1977)) Thus, “if the parent has an 4 actual or potential conflict of interest with his [or her] child, the parent has no right to control or 5 influence the child’s litigation.” Id. at 50. If, on the other hand, “a parent brings an action on 6 behalf of a child, and it is evident that the interests of each are the same, no need exists for 7 someone other than the parent to represent the child’s interests under Rule 17(c).” Gonzalez v. 8 Reno, 86 F. Supp. 2d 1167, 1185 (S.D. Fla. 2000), aff’d 212 F.3d 1338 (11th Cir. 2000); see also 9 Bhatia v. Corrigan, No. C 07-2054 CW, 2007 WL 1455908, at *1 (N.D. Cal. May 16, 2007) 10 (citing Gonzalez, 86 F. Supp. 2d at 1185). When there is no conflict of interest, “the appointment is usually made on application only and United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 involves little exercise of discretion.” Williams, 147 Cal. App. 4th at 47 (quoting In re Marriage 13 Caballero, 27 Cal. App. 4th 1139, 1149 (1994)) (internal quotations omitted). 14 ANALYSIS 15 16 J.M. was born in 2000 and is thus fifteen or sixteen years old.10 Because J.M. is under the age 17 of eighteen, he is a minor under California law. Cal. Fam. Code § 6500. As a minor, J.M.’s ability 18 to sue is contingent on the appointment of a guardian ad litem. A parent may serve as guardian so 19 long as the parent does not have an adverse interest. 20 J.M. seeks to appoint his mother, D.M., as guardian ad litem.11 D.M. brought this action solely 21 on behalf of her minor child and the court finds no conflict with J.M.’s claims. Her appointment as 22 J.M.’s guardian ad litem is therefore appropriate. See Burke v. Smith, 252 F.3d 1260, 1264 (11th 23 Cir. 2001) (“Generally, when a minor is represented by a parent who is a party to the lawsuit and 24 who has the same interests as the child there is no inherent conflict of interest.”); see also 25 Gonzalez, 86 F. Supp. 2d at 1185; Robidoux v. Wacker Family Trust, No. CIVS-06-2334 LKK- 26 27 10 Compl. ¶ 12; Petition at 1. 28 11 Petition at 1. ORDER — No. 16-cv-05225-LB 3 1 DAD, 2009 WL 1531785, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 29, 2009), rev’d on other grounds by No. 09- 2 16674, 2011 WL 1136241 (appointing plaintiff mother as guardian ad litem for plaintiff children 3 in housing discrimination case). 4 CONCLUSION 5 6 The court grants J.M.’s petition and appoints D.M. as J.M’s guardian ad litem. 7 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 Dated: September 16, 2016 ______________________________________ LAUREL BEELER United States Magistrate Judge 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER — No. 16-cv-05225-LB 4

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