Lackawanna County Pennsylvania Guardian Ad Litem Danielle M. Ross Sued In Federal Court


A Lackawanna County Pennsylvania man has sued the county’s guardian ad litem in federal court, along with the Lackawanna County Common Pleas Court, alleging the family court’s guardian ad litem program deprived litigants of constitutional rights and that the court’s sole guardian “thoroughly misunderstood and misapplied her role.”

In a complaint filed March 15, 2012  in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Dr. Michael Stefanov claimed attorney Danielle M. Ross threatened parents with sanctions if her recommendations were not followed while the court abdicated its judicial duties to Danielle M. Ross and “rubberstamped” her recommendations into court orders.

Dr. Michael Stefanov, in a seven-count, 36-page complaint, also listed the county as a defendant, accusing all defendants of engaging in conduct that violated Pennsylvania law on when a guardian ad litem may be appointed to a dispute. He alleged violations of the Fourth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and a violation of Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  Danielle M. Ross was appointed to Stefanov’s custody case in 2008 without a hearing, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit comes as rumors swirl over a possible federal investigation into Danielle M. Ross, who, according to court records, has handled hundreds of cases since the court tapped her sole guardian ad litem in 2008. The system came under scrutiny late last year after federal investigators subpoenaed documents from the Lackawanna County family court division. Several sources have told The Legal that investigators are looking into how, and how much, Danielle M. Ross billed litigants.

Danielle M. Ross has not responded to several requests for comment by The Legal.

Dr. Michael Stefnov’s case was one of many in which Danielle M. Ross was appointed “automatically,” after the family court implemented a new set of guardian ad litem procedures in 2008. And, according to the lawsuit, the court adopted those procedures with Ross’ input.

“In or around early 2008, Ross, with the knowledge, consent, assistant and/or ratification of the County and the [Common Pleas Count], set out to create or assist in the creation of a system in which the [family court] would use a guardian ad litem in all or in virtually all custody proceedings and she would be the only guardian ad litem or essentially the only guardian ad litem,” Stefanov said in the complaint.

A Sept. 22, 2008, procedural order reveals that the court allowed for the “automatic appointment” of a guardian ad litem to cases where any of a 13-item list of circumstances were met. That order — which came some months into one of Ross’ contracts and was signed by the president judge at the time, Judge Chester T. Harhut — allowed a guardian ad litem to be appointed to any case where “visitation removal,” “lack of communication between parties” and relocation were involved, among other things.

The complaint alleged that Danielle M. Ross subsequently gave a PowerPoint presentation to the Lackawanna County Bar Association outlining the function of the guardian ad litem and reiterating the types of cases that would trigger an automatic guardian ad litem appointment.

Dr. Michael Stefanov alleged in the complaint that the Sept. 22 order violated the law. He cited a 2001 state Superior Court case in which the court required “extraordinary circumstances” as the threshold for a guardian appointment. The court in C.W. v. K.A.W also ruled that a guardian was not a judicial officer or a quasi-judicial officer, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleged that there “has never, or almost never, been a time that the FCD conducted a hearing to determine whether ‘extraordinary circumstances’ existed such that an appointment of a guardian ad litem might be appropriate”

“To the contrary, during the relevant period, it is believed and therefore averred that the FCD has appointed guardians ad litem automatically upon its realization that the parties in a custody dispute did not immediately resolve all open custody issues,” the complaint said. “Indeed, the system appears to have been created to eliminate the need for a hearing.”

Once the Sept. 22 order was implemented, Dr. Michael Stefanov claimed, Danielle M. Ross made herself the “arbiter and enforcer” of what she thought was in the best interest of children whose cases to which she was appointed.

Attribution: The Legal Intelligencer


William M. Windsor


I, William M. Windsor, am not an attorney.  This website expresses my OPINIONS.   The comments of visitors or guest authors to the website are their opinions and do not therefore reflect my opinions.  Anyone mentioned by name in any article is welcome to file a response.   This website does not provide legal advice.  I do not give legal advice.  I do not practice law.  This website is to expose government corruption, law enforcement corruption, political corruption, and judicial corruption.   Whatever this website says about the law is presented in the context of how I or others perceive the applicability of the law to a set of circumstances if I (or some other author) was in the circumstances under the conditions discussed.  Despite my concerns about lawyers in general, I suggest that anyone with legal questions consult an attorney for an answer, particularly after reading anything on this website.  The law is a gray area at best.  Please read our Legal Notice and Terms.


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