This report is part 28 of an investigative series looking into reported corruption in the Missouri Judiciary and family courts. For the rest of the investigation visit the catalog here.
In July of 2021, Bart Rockett filed a lawsuit against Missouri family court judge Eric Eighmy on behalf of his children, Kadan and Brooklyn, who appeared on America’s Got Talent. The shocking allegations detailed two instances where Eighmy allegedly jailed the children in order to intimidate them and force them to obey his orders to give up show business and live with their mother.
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Eighmy’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss and claimed absolute immunity, which protects judges from lawsuits if they are acting in a judicial capacity. These immunity laws are highly controversial and the bar to overcoming them is extremely high. But the Rockett children are going to get their day in court to face Eighmy and hold him accountable for what they say was the most traumatic event of their lives.
On December 9, Judge Douglas Harpool of the United States District Court ruled that the Rockett lawsuit will not be dismissed based on immunity. He wrote:
The allegations contained in the complaint are that the judge acted without jurisdiction and outside his judicial role when personally taking the children to jail, then subsequently ordering them picked up in Louisana, when there were no judicial proceedings pending that would allow for this judicial sanction. Whether Plaintiff will be able to ultimately prevail is a question for another day. However, here, based on the allegations contained in the pleadings Plaintiff has stated a claim that judicial immunity may not apply and certainly a claim that cannot be resolved by a motion to dismiss.
The ruling by Harpool does a good job summarizing the allegations in the case.
Plaintiff’s Complaint presents extremely unique factual allegations and while Defendant’s motion argues Judge Eighmy is entitled to abolute immunity for his judicial acts, Plaintiff’s Complaint contains allegations against Judge Eighmy that reach beyond judicial immunity regarding the actions taken against the children…
Here, Plaintiff first alleges that Judge Eighmy personally seized and jailed the two minor children, who were not before him as parties, nor in contempt of court, because he wanted to “teach them a lesson” after a proceeding that had taken place in the Taney County courtroom regarding the parents’ custody battle. Specifically, after the hearing the children stated their intentions that they would not go with their mother and the Judge, as alleged, wanted to scare the children into compliance and in doing so physically had them escorted to jail and told them to stay there until they had changed their minds. Further, the allegations state that Judge Eighmy subsequently ordered the children to be picked up in Louisiana, resulting in their detention in a Louisiana jail for at least two nights, when the Judge did not have jurisdiction to enter any such order. Plaintiff argues Judge Eighmy decided to initiate, prosecute and adjudicate alleged juvenile delinquency that was never a case or an issue pending before him. Here, the Court does not determine whether any of these allegations are true.
Back in July, PJ Media reached out to Judge Eighmy but a clerk named Lisa hung up on us. She said she would not give him our message. Further attempts were made to contact the judge but were unsuccessful. Judge Eighmy is currently hearing cases in secret juvenile courts. PJ Media requested access to watch Judge Eighmy on the bench and was denied on the basis of juvenile proceedings being “confidential.”
The judiciary in Missouri in the family court system is having major problems, and representatives in the Missouri legislature are finally paying attention. Evita Tolu, attorney and former litigant in family court now turned activist, has not only sued major players in the court system resulting in two entire courts stepping down from the case, but also testified in November in front of the legislature regarding the state of disarray that the judiciary is in.
Family after family came forward to tell their stories of oppression and constitutional violations they say they have suffered in Missouri’s family courts. Tolu has written legislation called “Mikaela’s Law” that would remove immunity from all court professionals. The law is named after a 14-year-old victim of the court system, Mikaela Haynes, who killed herself to escape her abuser and the court professionals who enabled him.