Victory for Parental Rights
This 3-0 court decision was long overdue. Anyone with a minimal understanding of constitutional rights in the Child Protection Services Agency should have been able to see that this tactic goes against every fiber of freedom in this country. Countless hundreds, perhaps thousands of families have been falsely accused simply because this bureaucracy valued power over freedom.
See this from the Pacific Justice Institute whose nation wide legal team fights valiantly for families in cases like these, free of charge:
|Federal Appeals Court Finds CPS Tactic Unconstitutional|
|As families gather for the holidays, a recent ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals offers hope to hundreds of thousands of parents haunted by the nightmare of unproven child abuse allegations.For years, attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute have warned parents that, once CPS decides to investigate them for child abuse – sometimes based on anonymous tips from neighbors or vindictive ex-spouses – their names can end up on California’s Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). Parents are listed on the CACI even when CPS eventually deems the charges “inconclusive” and closes its files. The CACI listing shows up on background checks for years to come and prevents parents from obtaining jobs or state licenses.In Humphries v. County of Los Angeles, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sharply criticized the ease with which people are listed on the CACI and the obstacles which prevent their names from being removed. The court was also troubled by a study indicating that as many as half of the more than 800,000 individuals listed on the CACI “may have a legitimate basis for expungement.” Calling the list “the reverse of the presumption of innocence in our criminal justice system,” the court ordered the state to enact greater procedural safeguards.PJI President Brad Dacus commented, “It is gratifying that the Ninth Circuit has acknowledged what we have been saying for years-that treating parents as criminals when they are never convicted of a crime is unjust. We call on the legislature to finally fix this broken system in a way that honors basic constitutional rights.”Karen Milam, who directs PJI’s Southern California office, stated, “Every year, PJI is inundated with hundreds of calls from desperate parents who do not understand how they could be labeled as child abusers based solely on unproven suspicions. This ruling is an important step toward keeping CPS honest.”|
The San Francisco Chronicle’s article on the actual case is eye opening. This scenario is representative of many others, the silent victims of CPS’s long arm of government gone awry.
There is nothing more sacred and precious than God’s children. To trample the rights of families under the guise of “protecting the children” is a tactic that is increasingly used to bully and subject healthy families to government scrutiny, and the scarring effects for children can be life long.
Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on the details of the case:
“Boynton’s clients, Craig and Wendy Humphries, were placed on the list after their 15-year-old daughter accused them of abusing her in 2001. Sheriff’s deputies arrested the couple and put their other two children in protective custody, but the charges were dropped after a medical examination disclosed that no abuse had occurred, and two judges later declared the couple innocent.
Under the law, the Humphries’ only chance to get their names removed from the child abuse list was to persuade the investigating deputy that the allegations were unfounded. But the sheriff’s department told them the deputy no longer worked there, and a supervisor decided some crime must have occurred because charges were filed, the court said.
With no further appeal possible, the Humphries said the listing is an obstacle to their plans to volunteer at a local child care center and could hurt Wendy Humphries’ chances of renewing her teaching credential.
A federal judge dismissed the couple’s suit, saying damage to their reputation did not amount to a violation of their constitutional rights. But the appeals court, in an opinion by Judge Jay Bybee, said the listing “both stigmatizes the Humphries and creates an impediment to (their) ability to obtain legal rights,” like employment.
Bybee cited a 2004 state task force report that looked at listings from one county and found that half of them might be erroneous.
Although the state is justified in keeping a list of suspected abusers, including those who haven’t been convicted of crimes, he said, the California index has too few safeguards to meet constitutional standards.”
Half of the reports could be false. Half. That is truly frightening.