The issue being discussed in the appeal filed before the court is whether the Louisiana child protection workers are entitled to absolute or qualified immunity for their commission of allegedly filing a false complaint that seeks to remove the custody of two children from their legal parents.
A New York Criminal Lawyer said the appellate court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled that the guilty workers are only entitled to qualified immunity in a suit for damages filed against them.
The defendants are child protection workers of Louisiana’s protective service. One of their tasks is to conduct investigations and make the necessary reports of child abuse and neglect. Upon arrival at conclusions of evidence purporting to be a case for child abuse or neglect, the workers’ findings must be submitted to the local parish district attorney without delay or they may opt to file a verified written complaint instead for any probable cause of child abuse or neglect.
The foregoing are the procedures to be followed for a child abuse or neglect case. The caseworkers, upon filing of a complaint with the local parish juvenile court, the latter shall issue an order requiring the law enforcement officials to have the child in their custody. Afterwards, within seventy-two hours, there shall be a conduct of a hearing whether the child shall remain in official custody pending full adjudication or be under the care of minors’ parents. A Brooklyn Criminal Lawyer said that at the said hearing, the state must be able to prove probable cause that the child is abused or neglected before the court. If the juvenile court decides that the child is at the custody of the state, further proceedings require that the child protection workers to submit an extensive and full written investigative report to the local district attorney and the latter shall file a petition to have the child adjudicated within need of care. Upon filing of the petition, the juvenile court shall schedule a hearing within forty-five days upon receipt of said petition.
The facts of the case involved a mother with a ten-year old daughter who was alleged to be sexually abused by her stepfather. The suspected child abuser was then living with his wife and three other minor children. The female child was brought by her mother to a hospital for medical attention and informed the local police department and their district attorney who necessarily informed the protective service. The defendants to this case were assigned to the casework.
The defendants communicated with the child’s family and investigated the complaint of the mother of the abused child. After the completion of the preliminary investigation, the child protection workers submitted his reports with the local district attorney, which resulted to the filing of a petition by the latter to the juvenile court, which contained the prayer for removal of the minor children under the parent’s custody. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the defendants then executed and filed a verified complaint alleging the two of the minor children were in danger of sexual abuse on the ground that the family is unwilling to cooperate with the agency, thus, finding reasonable ground to remove the children from the custody of its parents. The court submitted an order for the temporary custody of the children to the State of Louisiana and the custody hearing was set two days thereafter. After the hearing, the juvenile court ordered the custody of children with the State pending further investigation. Upon final adjudication of the case, the court ordered the State to return the children to the mother’s custody.
The mother of the minor children then filed an action for damages against the State of Louisiana and the defendants. In the verified complaint, the mother alleged that the child protection workers made false statements in bad faith in the complaint they filed before the juvenile court that caused the wrongful taking of her children from her custody. The State moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground of sovereign immunity, which the court granted, hence, the case was dismissed. The court further stated that the defendants were entitled to absolute immunity in the performance of the official duties. Thus, the appeal was filed by the complainant.
Several cases decided by the Supreme Court recognize the work of the child protection workers is a prosecutorial function which warrants absolute immunity. In one specific case, the court held “the Ninth Circuit recently held that child services workers are entitled to absolute immunity in performing quasi-prosecutorial functions connected with the initiation and pursuit of child dependency proceedings. “
However, it should be noted that what is being alleged in the case against defendants is their filing of a false verified complaint for child abuse pursuant to filing a petition in the juvenile court. The false statements in the complaint filed by the defendant are not a petition that is the one considered as a performance of quasi-prosecutorial function. Thus, the appellate court held that the child protection workers are not protected by absolute immunity for the filing of a false verified complaint but instead they are entitled to qualified immunity defense. As such, the case is remanded to the district court for further proceedings.
Child abuse claims are very sensitive cases that need proper handling of a child abuse lawyer to guard and ensure the interest of the minor victim. Here at Stephen Bilkis and Associates we have practiced attorneys duly competent in providing legal service that would best served the child’s safety and well-being, whether there are abuse allegations, or endangering the welfare of a child charges.