Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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A father going through a contentious divorce was accused by his young daughter of sexual abuse. A Department of Human Services social worker observed the forensic interview, believed it was credible, obtained additional information primarily from the mother, and obtained an ex parte court order requiring the father to leave the family home. An ensuing adversary proceeding determined that the allegation was unfounded and that the mother had “wanted [the father] out of the house.” The DHS finding was set aside and, eventually, the father obtained physical care of the children. In the father's subsequent suit, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment.The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed. The claim of intentional interference with the parent-child relationship fails because that claim applies to extralegal actions— such as absconding with a child—not to judicially-approved acts. The claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress fails because the conduct here did not reach the level of an “outrage” necessary to sustain such a claim. The unreasonable search and seizure claim cannot succeed because there was no showing that the DHS social worker falsified the affidavit she submitted to the court or that the removal order would not have been granted without her questioned statements. The substantive due process claim fails because DHS’s conduct does not “shock the conscience.” A procedural due process claim cannot prevail because the father was provided with adequate process, which ultimately cleared his name. View "Lennette v. State of Iowa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit in federal court against his ex-wife, two state judges, and several others under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The district court sua sponte dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, pointing to related state court proceedings pending on appeal.   On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in dismissing his suit under Rooker-Feldman because the relevant state-court cases were pending on appeal when he filed this lawsuit. The Fifth Circuit agreed and reversed the district court’s judgment finding. The court explained that in denying Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, the district court relied on Hale and the court’s unpublished Houston decision.” The court concluded that Hale is no longer good law after Exxon Mobil and hold that Rooker-Feldman is inapplicable where a state appeal is pending when the federal suit is filed. The court further reasoned that the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that Rooker-Feldman is a “narrow” jurisdictional bar. It applies only to cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments. View "Miller v. Dunn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit by answering that Texas law does not authorize certain state officials to directly or indirectly enforce the state's new abortion restriction requirements.Plaintiffs, who provided and funded abortions and support for women who obtain them in Texas, requested a declaration that Senate Bill 8, the "Texas Heartbeat Act," Tex. Health & Safety Code 171.201-.212, unconstitutionally restricted their rights and injunction prohibiting Defendants, state agency executives, from enforcing the Act's requirements. After a remand, the Fifth Circuit certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered answered that Texas law does not grant the state agency executives named as defendants any authority to enforce the Act's requirements, either directly or indirectly. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Appellant Iris Stacy (Mother) sought certiorari review of an unpublished opinion by the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals (COCA) that affirmed the trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights to I.T.S., I.M.S., and R.E.S. (Children). At issue was the trial court's sua sponte discharge of Mother's court-appointed counsel at the conclusion of the disposition hearing, which left her without representation until State filed its petition to terminate her parental rights over two years later. She argued the trial court's failure to provide her legal representation between the disposition and the filing of the petition to terminate her parental rights (a period of 798 days) was contrary to the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted her petition to address a question of first impression: Upon request by an Indian child's parent for counsel in a deprived child proceeding, and a finding of indigency, whether the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required court-appointed counsel for the parent at all stages of the deprived child proceeding. The Supreme Court held that section 1912(b) of ICWA required, upon request and a finding of indigency, the appointment of counsel at all stages of the deprived child proceeding. View "In the Matter of I.T.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that social workers, and their approving supervisors, in the Department of Children and Families who attest to facts in sworn affidavits as part of care and protection proceedings commenced by the Department in the juvenile court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 119, 24 are entitled to absolute immunity in these circumstances.Plaintiff brought an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 against a social worker with the Department, alleging that the social worker intentionally misrepresented facts in a sworn affidavit filed in support of a care and protection petition in the juvenile court. Plaintiff further alleged that the social worker's area supervisor (together, with the social worker, Defendants) was liable because she had approved the social worker's actions. Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that they were entitled to absolute immunity. A superior court judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendants were entitled to absolute immunity under the circumstances of this case. View "C.M. v. Commissioner of Department of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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After an allegation that Bush had choked his son, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) began an investigation. Bush’s then-wife, Erika, obtained a court order suspending Bush’s parenting time. Bush filed a federal lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on behalf of himself and his children, alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and claiming that DCFS employees’ conduct set off events culminating in a state court order infringing on his and his kids’ right to familial association.The district court dismissed, finding that Bush and his children lacked standing to bring a constitutional challenge to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and that the Younger abstention doctrine barred the court from ruling on the remaining constitutional claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.. Bush failed to allege facts sufficient to establish standing for his First Amendment claim. Adhering to principles of equity, comity, and federalism, the court concluded that the district court was right to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the remaining claims. View "J.B. v. Woodard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dissolving the marriage of Daniel Cornwell and Melanie Cornwell, holding that the district court did not err in using the immediate offset method of valuation to value the martial portion of Daniel's pension.Both parties appealed in this case. Daniel argued that the district court erred in using the immediate offset method to value his pension. On cross-appeal, Melanie argued that the district court erred in not awarding her attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion by using the immediate offset method of valuation and to accordingly value and divide the estate; and (2) did not err in not awarding Melanie attorney fees and costs. View "Cornwell v. Cornwell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to Child, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.The Wyoming Department of Family Services filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights to Child, but Mother failed timely to respond. The clerk of the district court proceeded to enter default against Mother. On appeal, Mother argued that the district court violated her due process rights by holding the evidentiary default hearing by video conference and by not giving her a meaningful chance to be heard regarding Child's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Mother's due process rights were not violated when the district court held the default hearing by video conference or when it limited Mother's participation at the hearing. View "Herden v. State, ex rel. Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the county court determining that it lacked authority to permit adoption by a same-sex married couple, holding that the plain language of Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-101 permits a same-sex married couple to adopt a minor child.Kelly and Maria filed a petition to adopt Yasmin. The county court denied the request, determining that it did not have the authority to permit adoption by a "wife and wife." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the county court erred in determining that it lacked jurisdiction to permit a same-sex married couple to adopt a child. View "In re Adoption of Yasmin S." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court determined that the claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, collateral estoppel, the statute of limitations, qualified immunity, and lack of standing. The district court also dismissed some claims for failure to state a claim.The court concluded that, under both federal and Connecticut law, the issue at the core of the parties' dispute is whether DCF reasonably accommodated plaintiffs' actual or perceived disabilities in providing services and programs to assist their reunification with their children. The court explained that the issue was actually litigated and necessarily determined by Connecticut courts. Therefore, the district court correctly granted DCF's motion to dismiss on collateral estoppel grounds. The court did not reach the merits of the parties' arguments regarding the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Connecticut's statute of limitations, or plaintiffs' standing to seek prospective injunctive relief. View "Watley v. Department of Children and Families" on Justia Law