Submitted June 25, 2018
Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(PCS-2050-2003) (RSR-1525-2010) (Hon. Rahkel Bouchet, Motion
Judge) (Hon. Julie H. Becker, Reviewing Associate Judge)
Vora, Stephanie Troyer, and Jonathan H. Levy, Legal Aid
Society of the District of Columbia, were on the brief for
appellant M.D. in appeal No. 17-FM-588.
G. Varrone was on the brief for appellant L.P. in appeal No.
Vora, Stephanie Troyer, Jonathan H. Levy, and David Carpman,
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, were on the
brief for appellee M.D. in appeal No. 17-FM-589.
Fisher, Thompson, and Beckwith, Associate Judges.
Appeal No. 17-FM-588, appellant M.D. seeks review of (1) a
March 15, 2017, order by an Associate Judge of the Superior
Court upholding the October 14, 2016, order by a Magistrate
Judge in Case No. 2003-PCS-2050 (the "paternity
disestablishment case") denying a Super. Ct. Dom. Rel.
R. 60 (b)(6) motion for relief from an adjudication of
paternity, and (2) a May 1, 2017, order by the Associate
Judge denying M.D.'s motion to amend the March 15, 2017,
judgment. In Appeal No. 17-FM-589, appellant L.P. seeks
reversal of the Associate Judge's separate May 1, 2017,
order denying L.P.'s motion to intervene in the paternity
disestablishment case. We hereby sua sponte
consolidate the appeals. For the reasons that follow, in
Appeal No. 17-FM-588, we reverse and remand for further
proceedings. In Appeal No. 17-FM-589, we reverse and instruct
that L.P. be permitted to intervene in the paternity
2003, M.D. gave birth to a daughter ("minor child"
or "child") in the District of Columbia. During the
month or so surrounding the child's conception, M.D. was
involved in sexual relationships with appellee R.W. and with
L.P. On October 24, 2003, based on M.D.'s receipt of
public benefits, the District of Columbia filed a petition to
establish paternity and provide support for the minor child,
naming R.W. as the putative father. R.W. waived his right to
genetic testing, and on April 14, 2004, the Superior Court
entered an Adjudication of Paternity, i.e., an order
adjudicating him the father of the minor child. The
Adjudication of Paternity was signed by R.W. but not by M.D.
The Superior Court entered a consent order dismissing the
petition upon information that M.D. and R.W. had entered into
a private agreement regarding child support.
M.D. (who at some point had moved to Maryland) and R.W.
became involved in a paternity/child support proceeding in
the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland.
On June 10, 2008, the Maryland court dismissed the matter for
want of prosecution upon ordering, on the basis of genetic
testing, that R.W. "is excluded as the natural
father of the minor child." On December 3, 2009, M.D.
filed a petition in the Superior Court to amend the
child's birth certificate by removing R.W.'s
name. The Superior Court judge, apparently
unaware of the Adjudication of Paternity, granted the
application the same day, on the ground that R.W. "is
not the natural father" of the child. M.D. asserts that
she "believed that she had [thereby] completed all that
was needed to sever any legal ties between [R.W.] and [the
22, 2010, while M.D. still resided in Maryland, the District
of Columbia filed an interstate uniform support petition
against L.P. to establish paternity and to collect child
support, attaching M.D.'s affidavit alleging that L.P. is
the biological father of the minor child. L.P. argued in
opposition to the petition that the court could not establish
his paternity because R.W. had been adjudged the father of
the child. The District of Columbia and L.P. then filed a
joint stipulation of dismissal. M.D. asserts that she did not
receive notice of the hearings in the case, was not present
for any of the proceedings, and was not involved in the
stipulation of dismissal.
January 5, 2016, after M.D. had moved back to the District,
had begun receiving TANF benefits, and had assigned to the
District of Columbia her right to collect child support, the
District of Columbia filed a motion to reinstate and
consolidate the cases involving R.W. and L.P. and to
establish paternity for the child. The District asked the
court to vacate the April 14, 2004, Adjudication of
Paternity, arguing that vacatur was warranted because
"there are conflicting orders regarding the paternity of
the [m]inor [c]hild," with the result that "the
minor child is essentially stripped of her right to seek
support, as [R.W.] was adjudicated by one court to be the
father of the minor child, and subsequently excluded by
another court as the father of the same minor child."
The District noted that L.P. had "objected to both
formal and informal actions seeking to determine his
biological connection to the minor child due to
[R.W.'s] prior adjudication of paternity." The
District also requested "leave to seek the establishment
of paternity and child support from [L.P.]" The District
of Columbia later withdrew from both cases, citing a
"positional conflict," and the court granted
M.D.'s motion to proceed in the cases on her own behalf
(and with the aid of counsel) to establish paternity.
a hearing on July 14, 2016, the court (Magistrate Judge
Bouchet) stated from the bench that it would dismiss the case
against L.P. because "paternity ha[d] been established
[in 2004]." The court stated that it would still hold a
hearing scheduled for September 13, 2016, in the case against
R.W., but expected that its decision would be the same.
Before that scheduled hearing, L.P. filed a motion to
intervene in the case against R.W. in order to "protect
his interests," to take an adversarial stance with
respect to M.D.'s and R.W.'s desire to vacate the
2004 judgment of paternity, and to avoid the potential for
September 13, 2016, hearing in the case against R.W., the
court said that it would dismiss that case as well. In an
October 14, 2016, written order (entered in the docket in
both cases), the court formally dismissed both cases, denied
the motion to reinstate and consolidate, declined to order
genetic testing of L.P., and denied the motion to
disestablish paternity (which the court treated as a motion
under Super. Ct. Dom. Rel. R. 60 (b)) on the grounds that
neither M.D. nor R.W. had acted with diligence and expedience
and that the record revealed no extraordinary circumstances
that justified their delay in seeking to vacate the
Adjudication of Paternity.
sought review of the October 14, 2016, Magistrate Judge's
order by an Associate Judge. Before the Associate Judge, L.P.
renewed his motion to intervene (on which the Magistrate
Judge had not ruled), asked the court to consolidate the
cases, and later filed a ...