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Quasi-judicial immunity is warranted for lawyers for minor children because the threat of a lawsuit may discourage them from taking positions on behalf of a child that is adverse to the interests of the child’s parents, Connecticut Appellate Court Judge Barry R. Schaller reasoned. In a split decision, the state Appellate Court has ruled that an attorney for a minor child is entitled to qualified immunity from malpractice and other tort actions, because the job has judgelike duties. Officially released Feb. 3, the majority opinion, written by Judge Barry R. Schaller and joined by Chief Judge William J. Lavery, concludes that Paul Carrubba cannot sue court-appointed lawyer Emily J. Moskowitz for his mental distress or her alleged failure to advocate the positions of his minor son, Matthew. Carrubba’s suit alleged Moskowitz, who practices in West Hartford, Conn., abandoned Matthew as a client, acting as a guardian ad litem rather than an advocate. It also charged that she helped deplete the father’s assets and hindered Matthew’s educational progress. The majority held, however, that quasi-judicial immunity is warranted for lawyers for a minor child because “[t]he threat of a lawsuit by the parents may serve to intimidate and to discourage the attorney from taking appropriately forceful positions on behalf of the child, but adverse to the interests of either, or both, of the child’s parents.” A court-appointed lawyer for a minor is entitled to the same quasi-judicial immunity enjoyed by prosecutors, the majority held in Carrubba v. Moskowitz. In a dissent, Judge Trial Referee Francis X. Hennessy, sitting by designation, wrote, “I believe that the role of the attorney for the child, despite the fetters placed on her or him, is more consistent with that of the public defender than that of the prosecutor.” Public defenders, due to their advocacy role, do not enjoy the quasi-judicial immunity that prosecutors have. Cromwell, Conn., solo George W. Kramer represents Carrubba, and said his client would petition for review by the state Supreme Court. “I think when the court is split, they are more likely to review it. This might be the case to clear up the confusion,” he noted. In Schaller’s analysis, the role of an attorney for a minor child is a hybrid one, being partly an advocate of the child’s wishes, but limited to actions that are in the best interests of the child. A minor child’s lawyer cannot make — and a court can refuse to hear — arguments that are not in the best interests of the child. Schaller worked from the reasoning of the 1975 state Supreme Court case of Spring v. Constantino, in which a public defender sought quasi-judicial immunity, like that extended to prosecutors, for a role that is also “an integral part of the judicial process.” But the Spring court concluded that the prosecutor, unlike the public defender, is an officer of the state “under a duty to see that impartial justice is done to the accused as well as to the state. …” The minor child’s lawyer functions at the court’s behest, and not the client’s, and is not there to simply parrot the child’s wishes, a role that imposes a high degree of objectivity on a child’s attorney, unlike an adult’s advocate. Kramer, the attorney for the father, said his research found that the ruling makes Connecticut the only state that extends quasi-judicial immunity to lawyers for minor children. Hennessy, in his dissent, argued that the majority view amounts to judicial legislation, and wrote that the matter is one better left to state lawmakers. Moskowitz is represented by West Hartford, Conn., attorney Robert J. Kor, who praised the majority decision as well-reasoned.

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