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Defending a Lawsuit Against Motion to Dismiss

Case: L Family v. Administration for Children, Youth and Families
Filed: 3-3-06

In March 2006, Home School Legal Defense Association filed a lawsuit in Arizona on behalf of a member family whose 4th and 14th Amendment rights had been violated by a social worker investigation that had no basis outside of an anonymous tip. Just a few weeks after our filing, the social workers filed a motion to dismiss, saying that their actions were completely within the law.

Mr. and Mrs. Laraby (name changed to protect family’s privacy) denied a social worker access to their home at the first contact, but over a month later, two social workers and several sheriff’s deputies arrived on their doorstep, insisting on entry into the home. The family immediately called HSLDA for help. The social workers refused to speak with HSLDA Staff Attorney Thomas Schmidt, but instead insisted that he talk with an assistant attorney general, who informed him that if the Larabys did not allow the social workers into their home, the children would be removed from their parents’ custody.

The social workers also told Mr. and Mrs. Laraby that if they were not allowed into the home to complete their investigation, they would handcuff the parents in front of their children and take their children away. In response to this terrible threat, the parents stood aside and allowed the social workers in. Within five minutes, the social workers determined that the anonymous tip was false and left.

HSLDA filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Laraby for violation of their 4th Amendment rights, interference with family privacy, and the sheriff’s failure to train deputies in constitutional procedures. We argued that the wrongful threat to take custody of Mr. and Mrs. Laraby’s children was coercion, a tactic often used by social workers to gain unlimited access to a family’s home despite the parents’ objections.

Shortly after HSLDA filed this lawsuit, the social workers responded with a motion to dismiss, stating that they had not violated the Laraby family’s rights in demanding entrance to their home and threatening arrest and removal of the children. Instead, the social workers argued that their actions were protected, claiming that social workers do not have to follow the 4th Amendment when conducting an investigation. They asked the court to dismiss the case before the Larabys were even able to present any evidence showing that their rights had been violated.

HSLDA responded to the motion, arguing that all social workers are bound by the 4th Amendment and citing HSLDA’s landmark case, Calabretta v. Floyd: “The principle that government officials cannot coerce entry into people’s houses without a search warrant or applicability of an established exception to the requirement of a search warrant is so well established that any reasonable officer would know it.”

At the same time, HSLDA responded to another motion to dismiss from the assistant attorney general who had spoken with Schmidt, which said that the Larabys had failed to state a claim at all. In our reply to this motion, HSLDA explained to the court that the assistant attorney general had indeed violated the rights of Mr. and Mrs. Laraby with her statement that the social workers would take custody of the children under Arizona law if they were not allowed into the house.

With the briefing on these motions now complete, we are awaiting a hearing date and a decision from the court as to whether we will be able to present the evidence that Mr. and Mrs. Laraby’s rights were violated.


Opening Brief Filed in the Third Circuit

Case: Combs v. Homer-Center School District

Hankin v. Bristol Township School District

Nelson v. Titusville Area School District

Newborn v. Franklin Regional School District

Prevish v. Norwin School District

Weber v. Dubois Area School District

Filed: Feb. 2004-Feb. 2005

The latest salvo in the Pennsylvania homeschoolers’ battle for freedom has been fired. On January 22, 2007, HSLDA filed our opening brief at the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

As reported in earlier issues of the Court Report, six homeschooling families have filed suit against their school districts, claiming that the highly restrictive home education law of Pennsylvania violates their religious freedom. After almost two years of litigation, the U.S. District Court ruled against the families. HSLDA appealed the decision to the Third Circuit, in hopes that the appeals court will protect the families’ religious convictions.

After the school districts respond, the court will schedule oral argument. We will keep you updated on the progress of this vital case.


HSLDA Secures Victory in ‘The Case We’ll Never Win’

Case: Knoxville County Department of Social Services v. M Family
Filed: 10-4-06

The anonymous tip to social services followed her family all the way from New Jersey. The court order was granted in Tennessee without a hearing. The social worker and police serving the court order at her door thought they could interview her children—but HSLDA stepped in on behalf of this member mom and helped protect her family.

Sherrie Miller (name changed to protect family’s privacy) knew just who to call when a social worker arrived at her door on October 4, 2006, holding a court order demanding that she allow the social worker to interview her children. Mrs. Miller’s phone call to HSLDA was connected to senior counsel Christopher Klicka, who immediately contacted HSLDA Litigation Attorney James Mason for additional assistance.

For Mrs. Miller, the next few hours would be critical to her ability to protect her children.

While Mrs. Miller made her way to the social services office to comply with the court order, Mason began tracking down a local attorney who could help defend her. Mrs. Miller’s church referred William Lockett, whose law office was only two blocks from the social services office. Although Lockett had to cancel a meeting to go help Mrs. Miller, he quickly cleared his calendar and hurried to the social services office.

Meanwhile, Mason was on the phone with the social worker. He asked to speak with her supervisor, explaining that he needed to see the petition that had been filed to obtain the court order demanding interviews with the children. The petition was faxed to HSLDA, and contained no probable cause for the issuance of the order. Mason and HSLDA Staff Attorney Darren Jones immediately began working on a motion to quash the order—Lockett would need to file the motion in court that afternoon.

As Jones worked on the appeal, Mason continued talking with social services, giving Lockett time to arrive at the social worker’s office. Mason explained that because the petition did not include any allegations of abuse or neglect, HSLDA could not advise our member family to comply with the court order. Jones then emailed HSLDA’s appeal to Lockett’s assistant, who ran it down to Lockett, who delivered it to the social worker and her supervisor to show them the motion that HSLDA would be filing on Mrs. Miller’s behalf.

That got the social worker’s attention, and the interviews were put off. Two months later, the social worker dropped the case. Due to Mrs. Miller’s firm stance, the gracious collaboration of William Lockett, and HSLDA’s real-time intervention, the Miller children were protected from unnecessary and intrusive interviews.

Pending Cases

AL B Family v. Social Security Administration

CA E.T. v. California Dept. of Social Services

CA Miss H. v. Los Angeles Unified School District

IA Winkelman v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

IL H Family v. Social Security Administration

Il In Re: F.H.

Il In Re: H Children

KS T Family v. Social Security Administration

MA Amherst Public Schools v. S Family

MO B Family v. Social Security Administration

MS C Family v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

NY Sachem Central School District v. B Family

PA C Family v. Social Security Administration

RI North Providence School District v. G Family

Other Pennsylvania RFPA Cases

Penn-Trafford School District v. B Family