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A Better Partnership
July 31, 2015

COA holds that The Friend of the Court office is shielded from liability when acting as an arm of the family court

In Denhof v. Challa, No. 321862, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the Ottawa Country Friend of the Court (FOC), was shielded from liability on the basis of quasi-judicial, absolute immunity.
Acting in pro per, Denhof initiated a civil action against the FOC, alleging multiple counts of fraud and a single count of obstruction of justice. These claims were associated with statements made and actions taken by the FOC during family court proceedings concerning Denhof’s payment of child support to his ex-wife. The trial court determined that the FOC was shielded from liability on the basis of quasi-judicial, absolute immunity. The trial court reasoned that because the FOC was acting in her official capacity she can avail herself of absolute immunity from all of Denhof’s claims arising from the manner in which she discharged her duties.
The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that the FOC was shielded from liability under the common-law doctrine of quasi-judicial immunity because: (i) the FOC is office is an arm of the family court; (ii) the FOC performs functions integral to the judicial process; (iii) the FOC provides critical assistance to the court related to the ultimate resolution of disputes; and (iv) because the judicial process in domestic relations matters could not properly and effectively function absent the FOC. Thus, the Court determined that Denhof’s fraud claims fail as a matter of law. 

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