R.B. v. B.T., (Assoc. Snr. Judge Matthew Stevenson; 2DCA; 1/13/23). The DCA wrote a short opinion reversing a family law decision based on the doctrine of “unclean hands” because the parties did not raise that issue; the judge raised it sua sponte. The DCA cited some memorable language from Justices Ginsberg and Scalia.
- Reiterating the well-recognized principle of "party presentation," Justice Ginsberg, writing for the United States Supreme Court, observed that "as a general rule, our system 'is designed around the premise that [parties represented by competent counsel] know what is best for them, and are responsible for advancing the facts and argument entitling them to relief.' " United States v. Sineneng-Smith, 140 S. Ct. 1575, 1579 (2020) (alteration in original)(quoting Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 386 (2003)(Scalia, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment)). Justice Ginsberg went on to note that courts, with certain unusual exceptions, "do not, or should not, sally forth each day looking for wrongs to right. [They] wait for cases to come to [them] and when [cases arise, courts] normally decide only questions presented by the parties." Id. (alterations in original) (quoting United States v. Samuels, 808 F.2d 1298, 1301 (8th Cir. 1987) (Arnold, J., concurring in denial of reh'g en banc)).
Here, the circuit court abused its discretion in relying on an unpled, unraised, and unargued "unclean hands" defense, and the error was worse because the magistrate failed to address several issues that were actually argued by the parties. Reversed and remanded.