Nonattorney parent does not have standing to litigate her son’s constitutional claims
R.W. v. Wake County Public Schools, No. 5:07-CV-136-F3, 2010 WL 3452376 (E.D.N.C. Sept. 1, 2010)
Betty Adams filed a complaint in federal court alleging that the Wake County Public Schools’ failure to provide her son, R.W., the special education and services mandated by an earlier consent order violated his rights under both the state and federal constitutions. Although R.W. was named as a plaintiff in the suit, and all of the constitutional rights raised belonged to him, he did not sign the complaint; conversely, although Betty Adams alleged no harm to her own constitutional rights, she was the signing plaintiff.
The defendants moved to have the case dismissed on the basis that it did not state a claim on which legal relief could be based; the court dismissed it for another reason.
The federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina dismissed the case because Betty Adams did not have legal standing to assert her son’s claims for him.
One of the legal system’s bedrock principles is that a plaintiff must establish that a case exists between himself or herself and the defendant and may not rest a claim for relief on a controversy between a third party and the defendant. More recently, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (the jurisdiction of which includes North Carolina) ruled that nonattorney parents may not litigate the claims of their minor children in federal court. Therefore, Betty Adams could not pursue her son’s claims in federal court.
summarized by Ingrid M. Johansenposted March 3, 2011