Friday, January 25, 2008

U.S. 9th Circuit: DCF Workers Have NO Absolute Immunity For Lying in Sworn Statements.

A good quote in this published case. We must thank the Law Offices of Robert Powell for this remand.

Has your social worker ever lied and fabricated evidence? Well we all know the truth.
Let justice prevail.

"Furthermore, as prosecutors and others investigating criminal matters have no absolute immunity for their investigatory conduct, a fortiori, social workers conducting investigations have no such immunity. "

FOR PUBLICATION

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

LORI BELTRAN; ROBERT BELTRAN; ü COBY BELTRAN, by and through his

Guardian Ad Litem Lori Beltran,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.SANTA CLARA COUNTY;

MELISSA No. 05-16976

SemUApRloEZy,e ein odfiv tihdeu aClloyu nantyd oafs Saannta ý CV-03D-0.C3.7 6N7o-.RMWCinldairvai;d JuEaNllNyI FaEnRd H aUsB aBnS, employee

OPINION of the County of Santa Clara;

EMILY TJHIN, individually and as an employee of the County of Santa Clara,Defendants-Appellees. þ

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Ronald M. Whyte, District Judge, Presiding

Argued and SubmittedDecember 12, 2007—

Pasadena, California

Filed January 24, 2008

Before: Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, Stephen Reinhardt, Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Michael Daly Hawkins, Kim McLane Wardlaw, William A. Fletcher, Ronald M. Gould, Richard A. Paez, Marsha S. Berzon, Richard R. Clifton and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges.

Per Curiam Opinion1201

COUNSEL

Robert R. Powell and Dennis R. Ingols, The Law Offices of Robert R. Powell, San Jose, California, for the plaintiffs appellants.

Melissa R. Kiniyalocts, Deputy County Counsel, and Ann Miller-Ravel, County Counsel, Santa Clara County, San Jose, California, for the defendants-appellees.

OPINIONPER CURIAM:1. Melissa Suarez, a social worker for Santa Clara County’schild protective services, investigated whether Lori Beltranwas abusing her son, Coby. After this investigation, Suarez’ssupervisor Emily Tjhin filed a child dependency petition,which Tjhin signed under penalty of perjury. This petitionincluded a three-page statement of facts describing the findingsof Suarez’s investigation. Suarez also filed a separatecustody petition, which she signed under penalty of perjury.The custody petition attached and incorporated by referencethe three-page statement of facts from the dependency petition.BELTRAN v. SANTA CLARA 1203

The dependency petition was denied, Coby was returned tohis parents, and the Beltrans sued Suarez and Tjhin under 42U.S.C. § 1983, charging constitutional violations in removing Coby from the Beltrans’ custody and attempting to place him under the supervision of the state. Specifically, the Beltrans claimed that Suarez and Tjhin fabricated much of the informationin the three-page statement of facts. Relying on Doev. Lebbos, 348 F.3d 820, 825-26 (9th Cir. 2003), the district court held that Suarez and Tjhin had absolute immunity for their actions connected to signing and filing the dependency and custody petitions—including the alleged fabrication of evidence and false statements. It therefore dismissed plaintiffs’claims that were based on the allegedly false petition statements. The district court eventually granted summary judgment to the defendants on the remainder of plaintiffs’claims, but those issues are not before us, as plaintiffs appeal only the dismissal of claims based on absolute immunity.

[1] 2. Parties to section 1983 suits are generally entitled only to immunities that existed at common law. Imbler v.Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 417-18 (1976). We have therefore“granted state actors absolute immunity only for those functions that were critical to the judicial process itself,” such as“ ‘initiating a prosecution.’ ” Miller v. Gammie, 335 F.3d 889,896 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at431). It follows that social workers have absolute immunity when they make “discretionary, quasi-prosecutorial decisionsto institute court dependency proceedings to take custody away from parents.” Id. at 898. But they are not entitled to absolute immunity from claims that they fabricated evidence during an investigation or made false statements in a dependency petition affidavit that they signed under penalty of perjury, because such actions aren’t similar to discretionary decisions about whether to prosecute. A prosecutor doesn’t have absolute immunity if he fabricates evidence during a preliminary investigation, before he could properly claim to be acting as an advocate, see Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509U.S. 259, 275 (1993), or makes false statements in a sworn1204 BELTRAN v. SANTA CLARA affidavit in support of an application for an arrest warrant, see Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 129-30 (1997). Furthermore,as prosecutors and others investigating criminal matters have no absolute immunity for their investigatory conduct, afortiori, social workers conducting investigations have no such immunity. See id. at 126.

[2] The district court’s error is perfectly understandable, as it relied on our incorrect ruling in Doe v. Lebbos, which we overrule today. We reverse the district court’s ruling that defendants are entitled to absolute immunity and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. REVERSED AND REMANDED.BELTRAN v. SANTA CLARA 1205

Thank you!

Thomas M. Dutkiewicz, President Civil Rights Advocate For Families Connecticut DCF Watch P.O. Box 9775 Forestville, CT 06011-9775860-833-4127 Admin@connecticutdcfwatch.comwww.connecticutDCFwatch.com

For sharing this amazing news!

5 comments:

CasseStar said...

We are sorry to hear the dreadful effect of the parenting experience you have had, Louise; presumably in the hands of the government.... those people we pay taxes to destroy our lives.

We have been watching for about six years, the escalating volume of information and websites on this topic. Yet we're also cognisant that not ONE politician in these elections, has even revealed a clue that there may be a problem here affecting half the people in America. We are really wondering where the internet explosion is leading to. For sure, it is more than an avenue of venting, whining, blaming, and complaining, etc. Somehow this movement must coalesce/ unionize, put their money where their mouth is, head for Washington or the nearest Governor's Mansion. Until our heels hit the street in vast numbers - yes, like the protests against war -- this is a war on the American family by a bunch of rank opportunists hiding behind phony baloney immunity and back-scenes operators. Family Law, including CPS and other institutions that are employed in doing supervised visitation, watchdogs and bulldogs, are amongst the most despicable members of our society. (Please realize that some of this falls into the category of hyperbole, but overall if the show fits...) Casse & Leszek PS to be continued

Meg Salisbury bDimitrov said...

I am one of the mother's that lost my children its been 8 long years and my son is still in foster care he is 13 and my daughter was adopted out 3 years ago she is 10 now I have had lawyers fire themselves and judges that fired my appointed lawyers and this whole system cps is so darn evil and our children are suffering and betwwen my cancer (I am now 10 years out and now a new disease called Behcets I thank the Lord for giving me the strenght to somehow survive and not give up it is so hard but we all must act together and somehow bring this terrible agency down please pray pray and then pray some more and then get envolved anybody and everybody please thank you Meg Salisbury Dimitrov Concord Ca 94520

Meg said...

This is Margaret Meg Salisbury Dimitrov again it is now jan 2010 and I got to have my first christmas with my son for a whole week he just turned 15 and it will be 9 years in May 2010 since CPS took my 2 children and now they want to place my son back with me permanetly but my daughter was adopted out almost 4 years ago Why if I can have my son now why did they adopt my baby daughter out we had 7 years of supervised visits she knew me we had good viists we both looked forward to them Why dont I get to have her returned also? can someone please tell me Why? I have been working on a web page in her honor called imissmireya.com please visit me there anyone that wants to know more about me....I am working on a letter to send to my legislative branch the governor and anyone else that may be able to listen and help .....please from Concord Ca Whitmore Ca ( Mireya's new home )

Meg Salisbury said...

I have tried to post a new comment but I don't know if it worked right
My update is that CPS finally closed my case and my son was returned to me for good!
It only took 10 years and 3 months though but unforuately I did not get my other child
My daughter Mireay Elizabeth she was adopted out in 2006 by CPS when she was just 7 years old.
she is now 13
and lives with a woman who does not allow me to have any information.

Louise Uccio said...

Meg,

Your comment did get through. I'm speachless! I don't know what to say, first congratulations on getting your son back.. and I'm so so so so sorry about your daughter.

My heart goes out to you!!