Robert and Maria Kennedy v. Doonan, et al.
On May 15, the City of Covina agreed to pay Robert and Maria Kennedy $56,000 in an out-of-court settlement agreement. Earlier this year, on February 28, a federal district court judge had ruled that police officers in Covina, California, violated the constitutional rights of the Kennedy family when the officers and a social worker forced entry into their home on August 19, 1995. The police officers started the appeal process, but later decided to settle out of court with the Kennedys.
"I am extraordinarily pleased," said Michael Farris, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, "that the Kennedys have achieved this first and significant reward as we press forward with the vindication of their rights."
The judgment against the City of Covina and its police officers serves as a warning to police throughout the country. HSLDA has already used the decision to cause overzealous police officers to retreat from their unconstitutional demands upon our member families.
The police tried to persuade the court that the anonymous allegation of "slapping sounds" in the backyard amounted to an emergency or that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to a police officer entering a home on a child abuse investigation. The judge rejected these arguments and ruled that the police officers and the City of Covina are liable to the Kennedy family for invasion of privacy and mental suffering they caused.
The social worker and the department of social services were previously dismissed from the suit by the same judge. Negotiations are in progress between these parties to avoid the necessity of an appeal.
"In the absence of an emergency, government officials may not violate the sanctity of the home without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids it," said David Gordon, HSLDA attorney, who handled the Kennedy case. (See the May/June 1997 Court Report for the complete Kennedy case story.)