United States District Court, D. Kansas
J. JAMES U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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.
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.
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. 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
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.
their joint response filed by attorney Boehm, Rebecca and
Rachel contend the motion is premature because not all
parties have been served. The response acknowledges both are
minors whose “natural father” and
“custodial parent” is Dana Widler.
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.
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
court's duty under Rule 17(c) has been described as
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).”).
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.” Based on the current ...