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Griggs v. Oasis Adoption Services, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

October 6, 2016

THOMAS and JENNIFER GRIGGS, husband and wife, Plaintiffs/Appellants,
v.
OASIS ADOPTION SERVICES, INC.; CATHERINE BRAMAN; SARAH L. PEDRAZZA, Defendants/Appellees.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV 2012-014904 The Honorable Mark H. Brain, Judge

          Debus, Kazan & Westerhausen, LTD, Phoenix By Larry L. Debus, Tracey Westerhausen Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants

          Renaud Cook Drury Mesaros, PA, Phoenix By Denise J. Wachholz, Charles S. Hover, III Counsel for Defendants/Appellees

          Judge Margaret H. Downie delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Patricia K. Norris and Judge Samuel A. Thumma joined.

          OPINION

          DOWNIE, JUDGE

         ¶1 Thomas and Jennifer Griggs appeal from the entry of summary judgment in favor of Oasis Adoption Services, Inc., Catherine Braman, and Sarah L. Pedrazza (collectively, "Oasis") on the grounds of judicial immunity.[1] For the following reasons, we vacate that judgment and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[2]

         ¶2 The Griggses met D.R. through their church and agreed to adopt her unborn child. The Griggses retained Oasis to "provide adoption services, " including the statutorily required investigation and report (also called a "home study") that prospective adoptive parents must obtain to be certified to adopt. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. ("A.R.S.") § 8-105(A).

         ¶3 After retaining Oasis, the Griggses filed an adoption certification application, whereupon the juvenile court issued a July 8, 2011 minute entry that provided, in pertinent part:

IT IS ORDERED pursuant to ARS 8-104, that Oasis Adoption Services shall complete the investigation and file an Adoptive Home Study with the Court by 10/06/2011.[3]

         ¶4 Disagreements arose between Oasis and the Griggses about the scope of the certification investigation, causing the Griggses to terminate Oasis's services in a July 27, 2011 letter, stating:

[We] have consulted with legal counsel and other adoption agencies regarding the adoption process and your recommendations. We have made a decision to respectfully withdraw our application for adoption through the Oasis Adoption Agency.

         Thereafter, the Griggses worked with Olos Adoption and Child Welfare Agency ("Olos") to complete the certification process.

         ¶5 Unbeknownst to the Griggses, on July 28, 2011, Braman sent an ex parte letter to the juvenile court detailing concerns Oasis had about Thomas Griggs and advising the court that the Griggses were "withdrawing from the home study process" with Oasis.

         ¶6 D.R. gave birth to a baby girl in August 2011. The Griggses took the child home the next day, and the juvenile court awarded them temporary custody of her. See A.R.S. § 8-108 (delineating procedure for uncertified persons to obtain temporary custody pending certification). Meanwhile, Olos submitted a home study recommending that the court certify the Griggses as acceptable to adopt.

         ¶7 In late September 2011, the juvenile court denied the Griggses' certification application without explanation. The Griggses timely requested reconsideration. See Ariz. R. P. Juv. Ct. 77(C) (if denied certification to adopt, applicant may request evidentiary hearing).

         ¶8 During an October status conference, the juvenile court discussed the ex parte letter received from Oasis, which the Griggses had not seen. The court ordered the Griggses to appear at an order to show cause hearing three days later. The court also vacated the temporary custody order and directed Child Protective Services to take custody of the child. The court further ordered Oasis to disclose its July 28, 2011 letter to the Griggses, as well as "all relevant and discoverable information in [their] file."[4] The court set an evidentiary hearing in December on the Griggses' motion for reconsideration.

         ¶9 At the evidentiary hearing, the juvenile court heard testimony from Braman, Pedrazza, Thomas Griggs, Jennifer Griggs, and a representative of Olos. On January 31, 2012, the court certified the Griggses as acceptable to adopt. By ...


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