Articles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

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After her child was murdered by his father, the mother sued employees of county and state Child Protective Services (CPS) and others,, alleging negligence; violations of constitutional rights (42 U.S.C. 1983); and violation of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act--Adoption and Safe Families Act, 42 U.S.C. 670, and of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 42 U.S.C. 5106. The complaint alleged that from 1998-2007, CPS received numerous complaints about the father’s abuse and neglect of the child and his siblings. The district court rejected a defense of qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The contours of the substantive due process right to be free from government action increasing the risk of harm was not sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that pursuing the father for use of a cattle prod, while failing to immediately remove the child, would violate the child’s substantive due process rights. Given previous cases, it is not clear that a reasonable CPS official would understand that failure to seek termination of parental rights would constitute denial of procedural due process. Without ignoring the father’s role in causing the child’s death, CPS employees’ conduct cannot be said to be the “most immediate, efficient, and direct cause” of the injury. View "Jasinski v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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A Juvenile Court standing order provided that social workers had authority to remove and provide temporary emergency care for children at imminent risk of serious physical or emotional harm and to request assistance by law enforcement officers. At a 2002 meeting, social workers determined that exigent circumstances required immediate removal of the children from Nancy’s home. A Temporary Emergency Care Order was completed in consultation with an assistant prosecuting attorney and a supervisor. A social worker, accompanied by police, went to Nancy’s home and took the children into temporary custody, and, the next day, filed a complaint for abuse, neglect, and temporary custody, with a notarized document detailing supporting reasons. A magistrate found that probable cause existed to support removal. In November 2005, Nancy and the children sued the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, the social workers, and others. In 2010, the district court granted in part and denied in part the social workers’ motion for summary judgment on the basis of absolute immunity, denied the social workers’ motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, and granted the children partial summary judgment on Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. On interlocutory appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed with respect to both absolute and qualified immunity. View "Kovacic v. Cuyahoga Cnty. Dep't of Children & Family Servs." on Justia Law

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During her second grade year and after three years of disagreement between school officials and her parents over requests for certain disability accommodations for A.C., a minor with Type 1 diabetes,the principal made reports to Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services alleging that the parents were medically abusing A.C. The parents filed suit, claiming that the principal’s reports were made in retaliation to their disability accommodation requests and violated the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 2 U.S.C. 12203 and 29 U.S.C. 794(a). The district court found that the parents did not prove a prima facie element of their case and could not prove that the reasons given for making the child-abuse reports were a pretext for retaliation. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the district court prematurely placed on the parents the burden of rebutting the school’s stated reasons for its actions. Evidence of falsity in the reports of abuse coupled with the temporal proximity of those reports to requests for accommodations is sufficient to permit an inference of causation. View "A.C.v. Shelby Cnty. Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law

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G.C. began attending school in the Owensboro Public School District as an out-of-district student in 2005. In 2009, G.C. was caught sending text messages in class. School officials confiscated his cell phone and read the text messages. Because this was the last in a series of disciplinary infractions, Superintendent Vick revoked G.C.’s out-of-district status, barring him from attending Owensboro High School. G.C. filed suit, raising federal and state-law claims. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed, based on a due process claim that G.C. was denied a hearing prior to expulsion as required by Kentucky statute and a Fourth Amendment claim based on the 2009 search, in which G.C. contends that school officials violated his constitutional rights when they read text messages on his phone without the requisite reasonable suspicion. The court affirmed rejection of a Rehabilitation Act claim that the defendants failed to identify G.C. as disabled under section 504. View "Cain v. Owensboro Pub. Schs." on Justia Law

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After the child complained of burning during urination, school nurse Sliwowski conducted a visual examination of the six-year-old female student’s genital area for medical purposes. The student’s mother alleges that this medical examination violated the child’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. The district court denied summary judgment and denied Sliwowski qualified immunity, finding that the visual examination, conducted without consent and in the absence of a medical emergency, was an unreasonable search. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the law was not clearly established regarding whether a medically motivated examination by a school nurse exposing a student’s body constitutes a search subject to the protections of the Fourth Amendment and that Sliwowski is entitled to qualified immunity. View "Hearring v. Sliwowski" on Justia Law

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D.W., age 13, alleged (42 U.S.C. 1983) that state defendants violated his procedural due process rights by listing him on the Tennessee child abuse registry. After an interview with a case manager, D.W. requested review and submitted information regarding the alleged victim’s inconsistent statements, but never was told the evidence against him. Children’s Services upheld the classification. Children’s Services then denied administrative review because the classification did not affect his employment. D.W. claimed that being listed deprived affected his liberty interest in pursuing common occupations, because Tennessee law prohibits his employment with child-care agencies and programs and adult-daycare centers and that the listing prohibits contact with children during the course of state agency employment. The district court held that D.W. did not present a justiciable controversy because the alleged deprivation was the possibility of future harm. The Sixth Circuit reversed. D.W. has standing to seek additional procedures because those procedures, if granted, could result in relief that is sufficiently concrete and particularized. The classification is complete and will not be expunged from state records; this is not a generalized grievance or an injury to a third party. No further facts are needed to determine whether the boy was afforded adequate process. View "Wright v. O'Day" on Justia Law

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The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Hickman County, received a referral regarding allegations of abuse concerning the Andrews. A social worker was attempting to make contact when DCS received a second referral concerning the Andrews. Due to references to guns in the home and because the site visit was to be carried out at night, DCSs requested law enforcement to assist. The Sheriff’s Department dispatched two officers. Andrews was outside working when the group arrived and asked the officers to wait outside while he called the sheriff’s office. The Andrews claim that when Mr. Andrews opened the door, he was immediately followed into the house by a “whoosh of presence.” The Andrews claim that they granted permission for interviews of the children because they feared arrest or losing their children. The officers left the house and the Andrews acquiesced to the walk-through. No charges were filed and the assessment was closed as “no services indicated.” The Andrews filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment of qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit reversed as to the social workers, but affirmed with respect to an officer. View "Andrews v. Hickman County" on Justia Law

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The government sought an injunction under the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. 201-219, based on the boarding school's use of uncompensated minors in its kitchen and housekeeping departments, agricultural operations, auto repair shop, Sanitarium, and other operations. The district court concluded that the students are not employees and, therefore, not subject to the Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court rejected the school's claim that students in a vocational program can never be considered employees and the government's argument that the test of whether "trainees" are employees should apply, and applied a "primary benefit" test. The school staff is sufficient to perform the work even if the students did not work and the school is not at competitive advantage with respect to the work; the students benefit from hands-on training in an accredited program that is run consistently with their parents' religious beliefs.