THOMAS and JENNIFER GRIGGS, husband and wife, Plaintiffs/Appellants,
OASIS ADOPTION SERVICES, INC.; CATHERINE BRAMAN; SARAH L. PEDRAZZA, Defendants/Appellees.
from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV 2012-014904
The Honorable Mark H. Brain, Judge
Kazan & Westerhausen, LTD, Phoenix By Larry L. Debus,
Tracey Westerhausen Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants
Cook Drury Mesaros, PA, Phoenix By Denise J. Wachholz,
Charles S. Hover, III Counsel for Defendants/Appellees
Margaret H. Downie delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Presiding Judge Patricia K. Norris and Judge Samuel A.
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. For the following reasons, we vacate that
judgment and remand for further proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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).
After retaining Oasis, the Griggses filed an adoption
certification application, whereupon the juvenile court
issued a July 8, 2011 minute entry that provided, in
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
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
[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
the Griggses worked with Olos Adoption and Child Welfare
Agency ("Olos") to complete the certification
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.
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.
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).
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." The court set an evidentiary hearing in
December on the Griggses' motion for reconsideration.
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