Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Savoie v. Martin
Tennessee law mandates mediation in certain contested divorce proceedings. Now-Judge Martin was appointed and performed mediation in plaintiff's divorce as part of his private legal practice. The divorce was granted, allowing wife to take the children to Japan during vacations but requiring her to live within 100 miles of husband. Husband believed that wife planned to abduct the children to her native Japan, petitioned to modify the parenting plan, and sought a restraining order. The hearing, initially assigned to another, was re-assigned to Judge Martin. The parties agreed to have Judge Martin hear the motion, despite the judge raising the issue. Judge Martin ruled in favor of wife, who subsequently took the children out of the U.S. with no apparent intent to return. Husband was awarded full custody; wife was charged with felony custodial interference. Husband filed suit against Martin as both judge and mediator; the law firm as his employer; and a court-ordered parental coordinator, under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law negligence and contract theories. The district court dismissed all claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.
Heinrich v. Waiting Angels Adoption Serv., Inc.
Plaintiffs, seven couples who sent money to the defendants (adoption agency and individuals) to facilitate adoptions, in some cases of specific children, believed they had been defrauded and filed federal claims. The case was stayed, pending resolution of state criminal charges. The district court subsequently dismissed claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962. The complaint identified the agency as the enterprise; identified predicate violations of mail fraud and wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 341 and 1343, extortion, 18 U.S.C. 1951; transmitting or transferring in interstate commerce goods, wares, merchandise, or money knowing the same to have been stolen, converted, or taken by fraud, 18 U.S.C. 2314; and traveling in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to distribute the proceeds of extortion, 18 U.S.C. 1952; and alleged a conspiracy among the individual defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Four of plaintiffs' claims adequately alleged predicate acts of mail or wire fraud and adequately alleged a threat of continued criminal activity and, therefore, a pattern of racketeering activity.
Lowe v. Stark Cnty. Sheriff
After state court rejected his challenge to the constitutionality of the law, defendant pled no contest to sexual battery for engaging in sexual conduct by means of sexual intercourse with his 22-year-old stepdaughter, in violation of Ohio Rev. Code 2907.03(A)(5), which makes it a crime to "engage in sexual conduct with another, not the spouse of the offender, when . . . [t]he offender is the other person's natural or adoptive parent, or a stepparent, or guardian, custodian, or person in loco parentis of the other person." He was sentenced to 120 days of incarceration and three years of community control and was classified as a sex offender. State court rejected appeals. The district court denied habeas corpus. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting the state's interest in protecting families.
Pittman v. Cuyahoga County Dep’t of Children and Family Srvc.
A social worker employed by the Department was the primary case worker for plaintiffâs son, who was removed from his motherâs custody by the Department. After boy was adjudicated neglected by the juvenile court, custody was granted to his maternal great aunt and uncle. Plaintiff, who wished to take custody, claimed that the social worker misrepresented his desire and ability to parent and impeded his ability to participate in custody proceedings. The district court denied the social worker's motion for summary judgment on claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the social worker is absolutely immune from suit for her participation in juvenile court proceedings, regardless of whether she conducted an inadequate investigation or knowingly made false statements. Because the social worker's conduct neither caused any deprivation of the plaintiff's interest in family integrity, nor interfered with the process, qualified immunity barred remaining claims. The juvenile court was responsible for the "deprivation" and the plaintiff had notice and an opportunity to be heard.