Legal Memorandum: Liability of court-appointed experts

Issue: Under Illinois law, can a court-appointed experts be held liable for damages when acting under the court’s discretion?

Area of Law: Family Law, Litigation Practice & Procedure, Litigation Practice and Procedure
Keywords: ; Court; Appointed; Expert; Liable: Protection; Damage; Child; Immunity; Marriage; Marriage Dissolution Act
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 583 F.3d 967
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2016

In Cooney v. Rossiter, 583 F.3d 967, 970 (7th Cir. 2009), the Seventh Circuit stated as follows:

[C]ourt-appointed experts *** are absolutely immune from liability for damages when they act at the court’s direction. [Citations.] They are arms of the court, much like special masters, and deserve protection from harassment by disappointed litigants, just as judges do. Experts asked by the court to advise on what disposition will serve the best interests of a child in a custody proceeding need absolute immunity in order to be able to fulfill their obligations ‘without the worry of intimidation and harassment from dissatisfied parents.’ [Citation.]

Applying that reasoning, the Cooney court held that a child’s representative appointed pursuant to section 506(a)(3) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Act) ([statref]750 ILCS 5/506(a)(3) (West 2014)[/statref]), "who although bound to consult the child is not bound by the child’s wishes but rather by the child’s best interests, and is thus a neutral, much like a court-appointed expert witness, " is therefore entitled to immunity. Cooney, 583 F.3d at 970.

Heisterkamp v. Pacheco, 2016.IL.150229 (Ill. App. Dist. 2 2016).

Date: January 1, 2016

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