Kemper v. Co. of San DiegoAnnotate this Case
In a previous decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment terminating Johneisha Kemper's parental rights to her daughter, rejecting Kemper's contention that she received ineffective assistance of her appointed juvenile dependency counsel. Kemper then brought a legal malpractice action against the same appointed juvenile dependency attorneys, their supervising attorney, and the County of San Diego.2 She alleged defendants' legal representation breached the applicable standard of care and caused the termination of her parental rights. Defendants moved for summary judgment based on the collateral estoppel doctrine. The court granted the motion and entered judgment in defendants' favor. Kemper appealed, and the Court of Appeal affirmed: "Causation is an essential element of a legal malpractice claim, and Kemper is barred by the collateral estoppel doctrine from relitigating the issue of whether her juvenile dependency attorneys caused the termination of her parental rights. We decline Kemper's request that we create a new exception to the collateral estoppel rule based on an analogy to the writ of habeas corpus procedure applicable in juvenile dependency cases."