JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Thomas,
Kilbride, Burke, Theis, and Neville concurred in the judgment
1 This appeal asks whether defendant David Fahrenkamp has
quasi-judicial immunity from tort liability for his conduct
within the scope of his appointment as guardian ad
litem for plaintiff Alexis Nichols. We hold that he has
such immunity. We reverse the appellate court's decision
and affirm the circuit court's grant of summary judgment
in defendant's favor.
3 In 2004 plaintiff Alexis Nichols, formerly known as Alexis
Brueggeman, received $600, 000 as part of a settlement for
injuries she suffered in a motor vehicle accident. Because
Nichols was only 11 years old at the time of the settlement,
the probate court appointed her mother, Jelanda Miller, as
her guardian to administer her estate. Additionally, the
court appointed defendant David Fahrenkamp as guardian ad
litem. The court's order stated only that
"[t]he court being fully advised in the premises does
hereby appoint David Fahrenkamp as Guardian Ad Litem for the
minor child, ALEXIS BRUEGGEMAN."
4 In 2012 Nichols sued her mother, claiming that she used
$79, 507 of settlement funds for her own benefit rather than
for Nichols's. The trial court ruled in Nichols's
favor but limited recovery to $16, 365, a 2007 Jeep Compass,
and $10, 000 in attorney fees. The court found that
Nichols's mother was not liable for the entire $79, 507
when Nichols had a "guardian ad litem who approved the
estimates and expenditures."
5 Next Nichols initiated this lawsuit against defendant David
Fahrenkamp and his law office, alleging that Fahrenkamp
committed legal malpractice when he approved expenditures
that were not in Nichols's interests. Nichols alleged
that Fahrenkamp acted negligently by failing to adequately
monitor and audit her mother's requested expenditures and
in failing to report any irregularities to the court. She
also claimed that throughout his time as guardian ad
litem Fahrenkamp never met with her, consulted with her
regarding her mother's expenditures, or even informed her
that he had been appointed as her guardian ad litem.
6 First in his motion to dismiss and later in his motion for
summary judgment, Fahrenkamp contested these factual
allegations. He claimed that he gave Nichols his business
card when he was first appointed and that he met with her on
three separate occasions during his appointment. Apart from
his factual claims, Fahrenkamp also asserted that guardians
ad litem have quasi-judicial immunity so he was not
liable for any negligence during his appointment.
7 The circuit court of Madison County denied Fahrenkamp's
motion to dismiss but granted his motion for summary
judgment. After noting that no Illinois case has specifically
held that guardians ad litem have quasi-judicial
immunity, the circuit court surveyed cases that involved
other roles with similar responsibilities. Vlastelica v.
Brend, 2011 IL App (1st) 102587, and Cooney v.
Rossiter, 583 F.3d 967 (7th Cir. 2009), held that child
representatives have immunity, and Heisterkamp v.
Pacheco, 2016 IL App (2d) 150229, extended immunity to a
court-appointed expert who assisted in a custody evaluation.
Based on these cases, the circuit court determined that if
Fahrenkamp acted according to the appointing court's
directions then he was immune from liability. Because the
order appointing Fahrenkamp did not specify additional
responsibilities, Fahrenkamp had the limited role of
providing recommendations to the court regarding
Nichols's best interests. The circuit court concluded
that he was immune from liability for his conduct in this
capacity, so it granted summary judgment in Fahrenkamp's
8 The appellate court reversed the circuit court's
summary judgment order. 2018 IL App (5th) 160316. In
Stunz v. Stunz, 131 Ill. 210, 221 (1890), this court
described the "duty of the guardian ad litem,
when appointed, to examine into the case and determine what
the rights of his wards are, and what defense their interest
demands, and to make such defense as the exercise of care and
prudence will dictate." Based on Stunz, the
appellate court concluded that guardians ad litem
have a duty to protect their wards' assets and interests.
The court determined that defendant Fahrenkamp had "a
duty to act as an advocate on behalf of plaintiff." 2018
IL App (5th) 160316, ¶ 14. It added that immunizing
guardians ad litem from tort suits would be
inconsistent with this duty.
9 The appellate court also rejected Fahrenkamp's reliance
on Vlastelica, 2011 IL App (1st) 102587. The
appellate court distinguished Vlastelica because
that dissolution of marriage case involved opposing parties
who might sue or otherwise harass a guardian ad
litem out of frustration with the results of the
proceedings. Id. ¶ 16. The underlying lawsuit
here, however, involved the distribution of assets and only
one party. The appellate court characterized the relationship
between this guardian ad litem and ward as
"equivalent to the relationship between a trustee and a
beneficiary." Id. It found that, outside the
antagonistic context created by litigating parents, guardians
ad litem do not need protection from unwarranted
harassment and do not require quasi-judicial immunity.
Id. ¶¶ 16, 18.
10 Justice Goldenhersh dissented. Relying heavily on
Vlastelica, the dissent agreed with Fahrenkamp that
guardians ad litem do not serve as advocates for
their wards but act as agents of the court. Id.
¶ 25 (Goldenhersh, J., dissenting) (citing
Vlastelica, 2011 IL App (1st) 102587, ¶¶
21-23). Because they are "arms of the court," the
dissent would find that guardians ad litem are
entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. Id. The dissent
also expressed concern that denying guardians ad
litem immunity would discourage attorneys from accepting
appointments as guardians ad litem. Id.
11 Fahrenkamp petitioned this court for leave to appeal, and
we allowed that petition. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. July 1,
13 The appellate court reversed the circuit court's order
awarding summary judgment in Fahrenkamp's favor. Summary
judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law." 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 2016). This
court reviews a summary judgment order de novo.
Forsythe v. Clark USA, Inc., 224 Ill.2d 274, 280
(2007). In reviewing the motion, "this court will
construe the record strictly against the movant and liberally
in favor of the nonmoving party." Id.
14 The only question on appeal is whether quasi-judicial
immunity protects David Fahrenkamp from civil liability for
his conduct within the scope of his appointment as Alexis
Nichols's guardian ad litem. Quasi-judicial
immunity originates in the common-law principle that judges
are immune from liability for the acts they perform as part
of their judicial duties. See, e.g., Pierson v.
Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-54 (1967) (explaining that
"[f]ew doctrines were more solidly established at common
law than the immunity of judges from liability for damages
for acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction, as
this Court recognized when it adopted the doctrine, in
Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335 (1872)");
In re Mason, 33 Ill.2d 53, 57 (1965); In re
McGarry, 380 Ill. 359, 365-66 (1942); People ex rel.
Chicago Bar Ass'n v. Standidge, 333 Ill. 361, 367
15 This common-law immunity extends beyond the judges
themselves to protect other actors in the judicial process.
Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 366-67 (2012);
Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 335 (1983) (finding
that trial witnesses have immunity for their testimony
because "the common law provided absolute immunity from
subsequent damages liability for all persons-governmental or
otherwise-who were integral parts of the judicial
process"); Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 513
(1978) (holding that federal administrative law judges have
absolute immunity). In Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474
U.S. 193 (1985), the United States Supreme Court applied the
"functional test" to determine whether an
actor's role is sufficiently connected to the judicial
process to merit this absolute immunity. That test considers
"(a) the need to assure that the individual can perform
his functions without harassment or intimidation; (b) the
presence of safeguards that reduce the need for private
damages actions as a means of controlling unconstitutional
conduct; (c) insulation from political influence; (d) the
importance of precedent; (e) the adversary nature of the
process; and (f) the correctability of error on appeal."
Id. at 202 (citing Butz, 438 U.S. at 512).
16 The "functional test" requires the court to look
past the title attached to an office or position and look to
that position holder's role. Fahrenkamp did not either
receive or forfeit immunity simply by acquiring the title
"guardian ad litem," especially because
American authorities have not always used this phrase
consistently. See, e.g., Fox v. Willis, 890
A.2d 726, 732 (Md. 2006) (observing that "there is
little uniformity in the case law and statutes of other
states with regard to the functions, duties, and immunities
of 'guardians ad litem' "). Rather than
looking at the title "guardian ad litem"
to determine whether Fahrenkamp has quasi-judicial immunity,
the court must consider what function he performed. Here,
however, the parties do not agree what that function was.
17 Fahrenkamp characterizes the guardian ad
litem's function based on the statutory regime
created by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage
Act (Marriage Act) (750 ILCS 5/101 et seq. (West
2016)). The Marriage Act provides three separate mechanisms
for ensuring that courts adequately consider the interests of
minors: a child's ...