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Proequities, Inc. v. Widler

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 19, 2019

PROEQUITIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
DOUGLAS L. WIDLER, as trustee of the Billy I. Widler Revocable Trust, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          TERESA J. JAMES U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem filed by Defendant Douglas L. Widler, Trustee of the Billy I. Widler Revocable Trust (ECF No. 20). Douglas L. Widler (“Trustee”) requests that the Court appoint a guardian ad litem for Defendants Rebecca Widler and Rachel Widler. Rebecca Widler and Rachel Widler oppose the motion. Defendant Albany Widler filed a response indicating her support of the motion, and Defendant Aletha Wilder has yet to be served. Plaintiff has not responded.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed this interpleader action seeking an order determining the rightful recipients to proceeds of an IRA owned by the decedent Billy Widler. Competing beneficiary designations exist: under the first version, all of the Defendants plus non-party Dana Widler (the father of Rebecca and Rachel) would receive some portion of the IRA; under the second version, only Defendants Rebecca, Rachel, and Albany and Aletha Widler would receive shares. In his motion, the Trustee states his intention to file a civil action against Dana Widler in the District Court of Chase County, Kansas to allege the second beneficiary designation is a forgery and the result of fraud by Dana Widler.

         The complaint asserts that Rebecca and Rachel are minors. However, the complaint does not name a person who has the authority as natural parent or guardian to represent either minor, nor does it seek an order naming a guardian ad litem for either.[1] Attorney Joshua J. Boehm has entered his appearance for both Rebecca and Rachel and filed an answer for each of them. The answers use Rebecca and Rachel's initials instead of their names, with each filed “by and through her next best friend Dana Widler and through undersigned counsel.”[2]

         The Trustee contends the Court must appoint a guardian ad litem for DEW and DJW because attorney Boehm allegedly represents Dana Widler in his efforts to receive some of the proceeds at issue, thereby making his interests potentially contrary to those of his daughters. The Trustee further argues that Rebecca and Rachel's parents and their counsel are not appropriate representatives because they are not disinterested and able to act solely in the interests of Rebecca and Rachel.[3]

         In their joint response filed by attorney Boehm, Rebecca and Rachel contend the motion is premature because not all parties have been served.[4] The response acknowledges both are minors whose “natural father” and “custodial parent” is Dana Widler.[5]

         In her response, Defendant Albany Widler asserts Rebecca and Rachel are entitled to counsel, and that based on the allegations in the motion, a conflict of interest exists between Dana Wilder and his minor children that requires appointment of a guardian ad litem.

         II. Applicable Law

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c) governs the procedural aspects of representation of a minor and the appointment of a guardian ad litem. The rule lists the representatives who may sue or defend on behalf of a minor: a general guardian, a committee, a conservator, or a like fiduciary. Under Rule 17(c)(2), the court “must appoint a guardian ad litem-or issue another appropriate order-to protect a minor or incompetent person who is unrepresented in an action.”[6]

         A court's duty under Rule 17(c) has been described as follows:

The decision to appoint a “next friend” or guardian ad litem rests with the sound discretion of the district court and will be disturbed only for an abuse of discretion. In re Kloian, 179 Fed.Appx. 262, 265 (6th Cir.2006) (quoting Gardner v. Parson, 874 F.2d 131, 140 (3d Cir.1989)). Unlike a determination of competency, a district court's decision whether to appoint a guardian ad litem is purely procedural and wholly uninformed by state law. Gibbs v. Carnival Cruise Lines, 314 F.3d 125, 135-36 (3d Cir.2002) (“A district court need not look at the state law, however, in determining what factors or procedures to use when appointing the guardian ad litem.”); Burke v. Smith, 252 F.3d 1260, 1264 (11th Cir.2001) (“It is well settled that the appointment of a guardian ad litem is a procedural question controlled by Rule 17(c).”).[7]

         III. Analysis

         While the Court appreciates that it must protect the interests of minors who are parties to civil actions pending before it, the Court also recognizes that “a federal court should, as a matter of sound policy, be cautious in attempting to step between the parent and his or her child.”[8] Based on the current ...


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