Griggs v. Oasis Adoption Services, Inc. – 10/6/2016

October 11, 2016

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that an adoption agency has no judicial immunity for actions outside the statutory adoption certification process.

A couple applied to the juvenile court to adopt a child.  By statute, the prospective adoptive parents had to be certified to adopt.  See A.R.S. § 8-105(A).  The prospective adoptive parents hired an adoption agency, which began the statutory investigation process.  After the prospective adoptive parents fired the adoption agency, the agency sent an ex parte letter to the juvenile court expressing concerns about the prospective adoptive parents. 

The prospective adoptive parents sued the adoption agency for a variety of torts.  The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the adoption agency on the basis of judicial immunity.

The Court of Appeals reversed.  It assumed without deciding that adoption agencies are entitled to judicial immunity for reports they submit to a court pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-105.  But the ex parte letter fell outside the agency’s statutory responsibilities.  Thus, in submitting the letter, the agency did not act under its delegated judicial authority or any mandate from the State.  The Court rejected the agency’s suggestion that adoption agencies are immune for anything they do in furtherance of or in connection with a certification investigation.

The Court of Appeals therefore reversed the grant of summary judgment.

Judge Downie authored the opinion, which was joined by Presiding Judge Norris and Judge Thumma.