Last year I wanted to try and single out what I felt to be one of our South Carolina appellate courts’ published opinions which I believed to be of some significance for our State’s family court bench and bar and/or which, at least in my view, represented a unique use of our existing statutes, court rules, or Supreme Court orders (1) to achieve a successful outcome for that affected client, (2) to provide appellate court “clarity” to certain difficult and complex areas of family law, and/or (3) to perhaps add another, significant “arrow into the quiver” of the family court bar moving forward.
For 2016, I had selected the case of Noojin v. Noojin, which not only had a significantly interesting fact-pattern, but one which addressed in great detail a range of contempt of court-related and parental alienation-related issues; and which also provided our family court bar with a more defined “road map” on when and how to address these issues both with the client (in advance of trial) and at the trial of the case which involved these issues.
And with that brief background stated, I have selected as my “2017 South Carolina Family Law Case Of The Year” the case of Ashburn v. Rogers and SCDSS/CSD, S.C.Ct.App., Opinion No. 5505, filed August 2, 2017.
In Ashburn v. Rogers Beaufort attorney, Sharnaisha Naki Richardson-Bax, utilized and applied Rule 60(b)(5), SCRCP in a manner which ultimately opened the proverbial door for our appellate courts to revisit – and offer some clarity to – the legal doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. [The Ashburn decision turned on the inequitable notion that once a putative father made an admission of paternity of a child who, it was subsequently determined, was not his child, then under these legal theories of res judicata and collateral estoppel, it was too late to challenge that admission.]