Judge throws out South Portland man's lawsuit against Cumberland County district attorney

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by a South Portland man against the Cumberland County district attorney.

Igor Malenko claimed District Attorney Stephanie Anderson violated his civil rights by inserting herself into custody dispute over Malenko’s 5-year-old daughter. 

U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal said Anderson had done nothing wrong when she consulted with a judge and attempted to enforce a a custody order. He also said Anderson was entitled to “qualified immunity,” which protects public officials from lawsuits.

Malenko claimed Anderson’s involvement in the dispute with his ex-wife, Washington, D.C., resident Lori Handrahan, denied him parental rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

The lawsuit stemmed from an incident Jan. 27 when Handrahan, the girl’s mother, allegedly tried to take her daughter from Malenko’s wife, who was dropping off the child at a Cape Elizabeth day-care center.

Handrahan said a court order granted her visitation rights on the first, third and fourth weekend of every month, according to a police report.

The order also gave Malenko, the girl’s custodial parent, decision-making authority over the child’s well-being, which he interpreted to include barring the child from seeing her mother. 

Anderson called a Cape Elizabeth police officer and said she had consulted with Maine District Court Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz, who issued the order, and determined that Handrahan had a right to weekend custody.

Anderson allegedly said the girl could go with her mother, but the officer chose to have the state Department of Health and Human Services mediate the matter. A case worker determined that barring a new order from Moskowitz, the girl ought to go with her father. Malenko was without his daughter for about two hours.

Singal said in his May 23 decision that Malenko’s rights had not been violated, and that even if they had, Anderson would have had no reason to believe she was violating his rights. 

“Maine law specifically authorizes prosecutors to take any lawful action … to enforce a child custody determination,” he wrote. “The fact that Anderson was following Maine law by intervening in the visitation dispute supports the conclusion that her conduct was objectively reasonable.”

Michael Waxman, Malenko’s attorney, said his client would not appeal the decision to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

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