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Social workers and sheriff’s deputies violate family’s 4th and 14th Amendment rights
Filed: March 3, 2006
See the Loudermilk Case Page for the latest updates in the case.
In a federal lawsuit filed March 3, 2006, HSLDA is suing two child protective service workers and several sheriff’s deputies who showed up at the Loudermilk family’s door two months after an anonymous tipster had reported the family. Since these officials had no search warrant, the Loudermilks denied entry, based on their 4th Amendment rights. However, the social workers persisted, threatening to take away the children immediately if access to the home wasn't granted.
The Loudermilks called Home School Legal Defense Association and HSLDA Staff Attorney Thomas Schmidt reiterated to the social workers, sheriff’s deputies, and even the assistant attorney general—whom the social workers had called for guidance—that the officials had no right to enter the home or take away the children; but all to no avail. Despite the lack of legal authority, the social workers, backed by the sheriff’s deputies and assistant attorney general, began to fill out paperwork to immediately remove the children.
Faced with the choice between sacrificing their 4th Amendment rights and losing their children, the Loudermilks chose the former and under duress allowed the social workers and sheriff’s deputies to inspect the home. Five minutes later, the officials had determined that the allegations were completely false and left.
HSLDA filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Loudermilk family, alleging that the search violated the 4th Amendment and that the unjustified threat to remove the children was a separate constitutional violation of the family’s 14th Amendment right to privacy and family integrity. Our first victory came on September 27, 2007, when the judge denied the social workers’ and assistant attorney general’s motion to dismiss the claims. The judge stated, “Defendants persisted in their threats to remove the children if Plaintiff Parents did not consent to the search, stating that [they] could arrest or handcuff the Parents in front of the children. Based on the allegations set forth in the Amended Complaint, viewed in Plaintiff’s favor, no reasonable official would have believed that his or her conduct was authorized by state or constitutional law.” With regard to the assistant attorney general, the court ruled that “Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that [the attorney] . . . by ‘threat’ exerted ‘coercive pressure’ on them to allow the search of their home so that their children would not be removed.”
This ruling allowed the case to proceed to the discovery phase, where the testimony of everyone involved was gathered. No surprises were found during this process, as all witnesses generally agree about what took place on the Loudermilks’ doorstep. At the close of discovery, the social workers, sheriff’s deputies, and assistant attorney general filed a motion for summary judgment, again claiming that no violation occurred and the trial should not proceed. This motion was denied on March 31, 2010, and the judge ruled that a jury must determine whether the Loudermilks were coerced by the CPS investigators and sheriff’s deputies.
Undaunted, the social workers have appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit, which is considering whether or not they have jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Both parties have briefed the court on this matter, and we are awaiting their decision, which will determine whether we continue in the Ninth Circuit or return to District Court for trial.
Last Updated: July 9, 2010