United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. Mehta United States District Judge
Elena Sturdza has filed suit against Defendants Nathan Lewin,
Alyza Lewin, and Lewin & Lewin (collectively,
“Lewin Defendants”), and Defendants Martin R.
Baach and Lewis Baach PLLC (collectively, “Baach
Defendants”) for “errors and omissions”;
malpractice; misconduct; defamation; libel; intentional
infliction of emotional distress; conspiracy to commit fraud;
sabotage; violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985,
and 1986; violations of the District of Columbia Human Rights
Act; and theft, in connection with all Defendants' past
legal representation of and appointment as guardian ad litem
to Plaintiff in another matter. See Compl., ECF No.
1 [hereinafter Compl.], at 2. The Baach Defendants have moved
to dismiss the Complaint. See Baach Defs.' Mot.
to Dismiss, ECF No. 9 [hereinafter Defs.' Mot.]. For the
reasons that follow, the court dismisses Plaintiff's
Complaint with prejudice as to the Baach Defendants. A
separate, forthcoming Order addresses the Lewin Defendants,
who have not yet entered an appearance in this case.
gravamen of Plaintiff's Complaint is that she is
dissatisfied with the outcome of a prior lawsuit she brought
against the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) and a
competitor architect for stealing her design for the
UAE's Embassy in Washington, D.C. She now wishes to hold
both her former counsel and guardian ad litem responsible for
how they conducted the litigation. Specifically, Plaintiff
alleges that her former counsel-the Lewin Defendants-filed a
misleading brief, introduced false information about her
licensing status, failed to include relevant documents in
certain court filings, did not correct the errors in the
record despite Plaintiff's instruction to do so, worked
against Plaintiff's interests by persuading the court to
dismiss the majority of her claims, and damaged
Plaintiff's professional reputation by requesting she be
appointed a guardian ad litem. See Compl. at 4-7.
Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that the guardian ad litem
and his law firm-the Baach Defendants-worked against
Plaintiff's interests by hiring the attorneys she had
just fired and committed fraud by reaching a settlement
agreement without her consent. See Id. at 5-6.
Plaintiff seeks to hold all Defendants liable for the losses
sustained as a result of the purportedly unacceptable legal
representation and settlement she received, including the
costs of pro se litigation for 15 years, lost wages from the
time spent litigating on her own behalf, and lost employment
opportunities from her damaged reputation. See Id.
at 8-11. She estimates her damages to be nearly $200 million.
See Id. at 11.
Baach Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint
under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
They assert that they enjoy quasi-judicial immunity from suit
as all the acts of which Plaintiff complains arose in
connection with their representation of her as guardian ad
litem in the prior litigation. Alternatively, they contend
that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of
limitations and the doctrine of res judicata, and that
Plaintiff has failed to state any plausible claim. Because
the court concludes that the Baach Defendants are immune from
suit, the court does not reach the alternative arguments.
those who perform quasi-judicial functions, and those who act
at the behest of the court are immune from suit for money
damages. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 364
(1978); Hester v. Dickerson, 576 F.Supp.2d 60, 62-63
(D.D.C. 2008). In the District of Columbia, a person enjoys
judicial immunity if (1) her activities are “integrally
related to the judicial process” and (2) she
“exercise[s] discretion comparable to that exercised by
a judge.” Cunningham v. District of Columbia,
584 A.2d 573, 576 (D.C. 1990); cf. Sindram v. Suda,
986 F.2d 1459, 1460 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (per curiam) (holding
that law clerks enjoy judicial immunity “for
performance of tasks that are an integral part of the
neither the D.C. Court of Appeals nor the D.C. Circuit has
squarely held that a guardian ad litem is immune from suit
for damages arising from actions taken within the scope of
her role as guardian ad litem, several federal courts have
reached that conclusion, e.g., Lewittes v.
Lobis, 164 F. App'x 97, 98 (2d Cir. 2006) (per
curiam); Cok v. Cosentino, 876 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir.
1989) (per curiam); Myers v. Morris, 810 F.2d 1437,
1465-66 (8th Cir. 1987), abrogated on other grounds,
500 U.S. 478 (1991); Kurzawa v. Mueller, 732 F.2d
1456, 1458 (6th Cir. 1984); Ficken v. Golden, No.
4-350, 2005 WL 692019, at *6 (D.D.C. Mar. 24, 2005);
Short by Oosterhous v. Short, 730 F.Supp. 1037, 1039
(D. Colo. 1990); Ward v. San Diego Cty. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 691 F.Supp. 238, 241 (S.D. Cal. 1988), and this
court agrees. A guardian ad litem who is appointed to
act on behalf of a litigant the court has deemed legally
incompetent is an actor integrally related to the judicial
process because she enters the litigation only at the
court's behest and, though serving as the litigant's
voice in the litigation, is not an attorney-advocate for the
litigant. See Cunningham, 584 A.2d at 576;
Guardian, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed.
2014). Furthermore, the guardian ad litem exercises broad
discretion in acting to further the litigant's best
interests, even if contrary to the litigant's wishes.
See Cunningham, 584 A.2d at 576; cf. Short,
730 F.Supp. at 1039. As such, a guardian ad litem enjoys
immunity from suit for any damages that flow from acts takes
within the scope of that role.
that principle here, the court concludes the Baach Defendants
are immune from suit. Defendant Martin Baach was appointed as
Plaintiff's guardian ad litem following notice and a
hearing, after which Judge Kennedy determined Plaintiff was
not “capable of making responsible decisions concerning
th[e] pending litigation because she is irrational regarding
this case.” Sturdza v. United Arab Emirates,
644 F.Supp.2d 50, 74-75 (D.D.C.) (internal quotation marks
omitted), aff'd, Nos. 00-7279, 06-7061, 06-7069,
2009 WL 5125239 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 17, 2009) (per curiam).
Defendant Martin Baach negotiated a settlement on
Plaintiff's behalf and the D.C. Circuit held that
Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge that settlement
because “after a guardian ad litem is appointed, no
other party has standing to represent the
ward”-including herself. See Sturdza v. United Arab
Emirates, 587 F. App'x 660 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (per
curiam) (mem.). Given that the validity of the settlement is
the only issue before the court and that all the acts alleged
by the Baach Defendants were undertaken in their capacity as
guardian ad litem and law firm of the guardian ad litem,
respectively, they are immune from suit. See
Lewittes, 164 F. App'x at 98 (explaining that
immunity of the guardian ad litem extends to include the
guardian's law firm); Cunningham, 584 A.2d at
Plaintiff has not stated a cognizable claim for relief.
light of the foregoing discussion, the court grants the Baach
Defendants' Motion and dismisses Plaintiffs Complaint
separate Order accompanies ...