Chrissy F. by Medley v. Mississippi Dept. of Public Welfare, 88-4716

Citation883 F.2d 25
Decision Date11 September 1989
Docket NumberNo. 88-4716,88-4716
PartiesCHRISSY F., By Her Next Friend and Guardian Ad Litem Donna MEDLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)

Sheila Brogna, Legal Services For Children, Inc., Daniel S. Mason, Ronald Elsberry, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiff-appellant.

Charles Bearman, Leslie Scott, Mike Moore, Atty. Gen., John T. Kitchens, Robert G. Jenkins, Asst. Attys. Gen., Jackson, Miss., for state defendants.

Thomas, McNeese, Aultman, Tyner, McNeese, Ruggin, Ltd., Columbia, Miss., for R. Douglass.

Larry O. Norris, Hattiesburg, Miss., for Timothy C. Foxworth.

Appeal from the United States District Court For the Southern District of Mississippi.

Before GOLDBERG, JOHNSON, and DUHE, Circuit Judges.

DUHE, Circuit Judge:

Donna Medley appeals the district court's dismissal of a complaint alleging civil rights violations and pendent state claims which she filed on behalf of an infant, Chrissy F. We reverse and remand.

Medley's complaint alleges the following facts which, for present purposes, we assume to be true: Chrissy's father, Timothy Foxworth, sexually abused her. Her mother, Dorrie Singley, divorced Foxworth because of this behavior. A Mississippi state court awarded custody of Chrissy to Singley but later awarded custody to Foxworth. Singley presented medical evidence of Chrissy's sexual abuse to the county welfare department, the county district attorney, and the judge handling the custody case. These officials did not adequately investigate the case or take any action to protect Chrissy. Subsequently Singley covertly placed Chrissy with another family in order to protect her from Foxworth. Shortly thereafter Singley died. Chrissy resurfaced in San Francisco, California where, through the efforts of an attorney from Legal Services for Children, Inc., a California state court placed Chrissy in the temporary custody of the San Francisco Department of Social Services (DSS). Medley provided a foster home for Chrissy while she was in the temporary custody of DSS. Based on assurances made by Mississippi officials at a detention hearing, the California court ordered Chrissy returned to Mississippi. After Chrissy's return to Mississippi, the California court later determined that Mississippi officials had not met the conditions set for Chrissy's return and appointed Medley guardian ad litem for Chrissy.

Medley filed suit in federal district court in Mississippi as "next friend" and guardian ad litem of Chrissy alleging that various Mississippi officials and agencies had violated Chrissy's civil rights. She also alleged pendent state law theories against Foxworth. Finding Medley's action inextricably intertwined with the Mississippi state court's judgment awarding custody of Chrissy to Foxworth, the district court dismissed it for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Medley appeals contending that the complaint does not seek review of the custody decree but rather alleges that lack of an adequate investigation of Chrissy's case by Mississippi officials violated Chrissy's federal constitutional and statutory rights. Appellees challenge, inter alia, Medley's capacity to sue on Chrissy's behalf arguing that the California court did not have jurisdiction of the case therefore Medley's appointment as guardian ad litem was void ab initio. They further argue that even if it was valid, it would not give Medley capacity to sue on behalf of Chrissy in this action because under Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b), Medley must comply with Mississippi law to validly represent Chrissy in federal district court in Mississippi. Medley has not complied with Mississippi law. In her appellate brief, Medley abandons the contention that she is suing as Chrissy's guardian ad litem (an apparent acknowledgment of the correctness of defendant's argument that the California court lacked jurisdiction) and states that she is suing as Chrissy's "next friend". Appellees respond that Medley is not a "proper" next friend. They note that Medley only knew Chrissy briefly and that this contact resulted from a parental kidnapping.

The issue of capacity to sue on behalf of an infant is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b) and (c). Rule 17(b) provides that when an individual is acting in a representative capacity, their capacity to sue shall be determined by the law of the state in which the district court is held. Rule 17(c) provides:

Whenever an infant or...

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  • Chrissy F. By Medley v. MISSISSIPPI DPW
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