Federal Court Case Asks: Is it Against Constitution for Caseworkers to Lie?

Is it constitutional for a caseworker to lie in court?

If that question comes across to you as one with an obvious answer, consider that a court case on the subject is one stop away from the U.S. Supreme Court.

YSI-MB-PageThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard Hardwick v. Vreeken last week, an extension of a long-running court battle involving Deanne Fogarty-Hardwick, her two daughters, and the child welfare system in Orange County, Calif.

You can click here to read about the history of the case, which began with a custody battle, involved child welfare workers committing “judicial deception” to facilitate the removal of the daughters from Deanne, and has resulted so far in more than $10 million in judgments against Orange County.

A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit court last week heard oral arguments in the appeal of a case involving Preslie Hardwick, one of the daughters, versus Marcia Vreeken, one of the Orange County caseworkers found in previous lawsuits to have intentionally deceived the court.

Attorneys for Vreeken have appealed to the Ninth Circuit based on the argument that while state code might instruct caseworkers not to lie, there is no case law or precedent to suggest that their lying is unconstitutional.

Here is the basic argument on behalf of the caseworkers. As government workers, they are entitled to qualified immunity from prosecution in federal court unless a two-prong test can be passed. First, constitutional rights must have been violated.

Second, attorneys argued, it must be clearly established that the government workers know “without a doubt” that their actions would be a violation of law.

They argued that, in this case, at the time the removal occurred in 2000, state law and federal case precedent did not clearly establish to caseworkers that lying and/or presenting false evidence would deprive Ms. Fogarty-Hardwick of her constitutional rights.

Now, Youth Services Insider would caution anyone, at any time, from reading too much into the judge’s questions and reactions during oral arguments. But suffice to say, the judges were skeptical of this argument, in particular Judge Stephen Trott, a longtime member of the court appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987.

“How in the world could a person in the shoes of your clients possibly believe that it was appropriate to use perjury and false evidence” to remove a child from a parent, Trott asked. “How could they possibly not be in notice that you can’t do that?”

They might have been based on ethical guidelines and morality, but not based on clearly established law, attorneys argued.

“You mean due process is somehow consistent with a government worker introducing perjured testimony and false evidence?” Trott asked. “I can’t even believe for a microsecond that a caseworker wouldn’t understand you can’t lie and put in false evidence.”

The oral arguments are 23 minutes long and can be viewed by clicking here. It certainly sounds from the discussion as though the judges are not impressed with the notion that, absent a precedent here, workers could have reasonably believed it was okay to make up stuff to influence a child welfare removal.

If they rule against Vreeken, and this is appealed, perhaps we will see a Supreme Court case that sets once and for all that child welfare caseworkers violate constitutionally guaranteed rights of parents if they lie to affect a removal.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1128 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.

21 Comments

  1. On the basis of graduating from a K-12 education, all citizens are expected by the government to be sufficiently expert in what the laws of their city, state and nation are so that they can be expected to be able to obey those laws. After all, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

    And yet, we constantly see government official after government official — these caseworkers, cops, highly educated lawyers and others — arguing in court that there is no way that they could have known that breaking the law is illegal. They have the same K-12 education every other citizen has, plus extra education most citizens lack. Yet somehow, the education that is deemed sufficient for the rest of us to be held to the standard that ignorance is not an excuse, is insufficient for highly trained professionals.

    So how is it that more education makes ignorance excusable, while less education does not?

  2. It is a travesty of so called justice that anyone
    gets away with perjury. If anyone lies to a court at the minimum their
    credibility must be permanently dismissed. You lie: you have no more
    credibility. I am sickened that we even debate this but not surprised. Liberals
    and in particular Feminists have put truth on its head and now turn good into
    bad and lie into truth. Innocent is guilty and violence is protecting children.
    It makes me ill. I was a victim of their vile and evil actions and will never
    forget what they did.

  3. The government has violated the equal rights of the constitution. One law for Social Workers and another for normal people. They get to lie; cheat and ruin lives. We get to suffer their hate. The politicians who voted for immunity are traitors and should be treated as such. Nobody is above the law and that includes: politicians; judges and social workers. Our government is a tyranny which disrespects people. We see on a daily basis traitors in form of social workers destroy people and get away with it.

  4. Next, they’ll have the right to deceive the court….oops, they already do that now, don’t they?

  5. This case against Vreeken was brought by Shawn Mcmillan and is being finished up years later by Robert Powell. It has become a generational fight. Thank you guys and your teams for the masterful work. You are laying the ground work for families to free themselves of this CPS scourge!

  6. Technically it is against the law to commit perjury but they don’t prosecute them for doing it so of course they will continue to do so. Another law they break on a regular basis is failure to report child abuse but then they can’t actually report themselves can they? Also if your child dies because of the abuse they suffered by DHS you are not allowed to know who is responsible.

  7. This case should not have even been this far along in the judicial process to start with for the simple reason the caseworker practiced in “Fraud” and therefore should have been criminally charged/prosecuted for committing “Fraud upon the court” and civilly prosecuted both personally and professionally for the caseworkers unlawful actions on various levels. This is just another case of the corruption that one our presidential candidates is talking about, a case that is trying to give cover for a government worker for their obviously, serious criminal actions, in the process of removing a parents child from their possession. I do hope the court will do the obviously right move here and deny any cover for the caseworker’s criminal actions and remand it back to the lower court for a criminal investigation of the caseworker and pay the civil liability rightfully due the parent. This is the only way this type of corruption will stop. The court has to make this type of activity so costly to violator that it will not even be thought of in the future to be a practice activity of any government agency. A message has to be sent loud and clear to all agencies that “FRAUD” will not be tolerated on any level, period.

    • Well said! I look forward to the day when all social workers who abduct children from loving families are prosecuted to the full extent of the law and held accountable for the pain and suffering they cause to countless innocents.

    • No one is talking about the solution to ending CPS nationally and world wide. Nancy Schaefer almost took it all down…because she had the solution and gave it to us all. Yet everyone is scared to use it in fear for their own lives. Nancy, her husband Bruce and Bill Bowen were all killed by those at the top that are bringing in BILLIONS of dollars every year. You cannot operate in a broken system…it has to be taken down. None of you are comprehending what your up against. They will protect their billions and not allow you to stop their child stealing and trafficking. This has been happening for hundreds of years and they have refined their ways. Judges, attorneys, advocates, corporations, banks and so many more are all part of it…paid and bought. Egypt knew how to oust President Morsi…so if you want change and an end to corruption, maybe you should start researching Egypt/Morsi and Nancy Schaefer. If you do, you will understand and realize what the solution is. if you don’t…then all of you do not care and just talk….no action to save children. Sad, but the truth. Keep playing Night Court and put on your very best, because your on that show and your Judge is a magician/illusionist and your bailiff is BULL.

    • Sorry bud government criminals get away with anything. Becuase gov says they get to be “special” and do whatever crimes they want. It is only us that have to follow the law but the real criminals get away with anything because they write the law.

  8. I have a court transcript from the hearing in front of Judge Hugh Jones in Northumberland County (Pennsylvania) where a caseworker by the name of Jordan Watkins sold her “soul to the devil” to block my family from getting my great granddaughter out of foster care. The court hearing was on April 28, 2016 and I had a letter of approval dated April 26, 2016 from the agency that Northumberland CYS hired to do my home study approving me as an adoptive resource parent for my own great grand daughter. The baby’s gudardian ad litem, the court appointed attorneys for the baby’s mother and father, wanted the baby returned to her biological family, and they would not even give our family overnight visitation. I later learned that the case worker who removed my great grand daughter from her home had a pre-existing relationship with the foster parents who currently have her. This is the most shocking case of ethical misconduct that I ever seen in my life. The foster care system is not for wealth couples who can’t have children of their own. There is a lot of substance abuse families and if change doesn’t start happening, the foster care system will continue to be a resource to farm out babies and basically boils down to legal kidnapping of small children. I am not here to say that CYS does not have an easy job but it does not excuse them from not disclosing that case workers who are removing babies from home are friends with foster parents.

  9. Hopefully a decision against deception and perjury as being appropriate will have widespread application across all government employees, not just social workers.

    • Any violation of the law by anyone should be treated the same. Nobody gets immunity not me and not you and not some social worker.

  10. Caseworker’s Nationwide commit perjury on a daily basis to steal children from their innocent parents. Hopefully Judge Trott will put an end to it. It would also be nice if ALL the cases where perjury took place Nationwide were ALL overturned!!! Wishful thinking!

    • Social Workers should be subject to the same laws as anyone. The politicians who voted immunity for them should be tried for treason. I was a victim of a social worker and to this day suffer with no recourse. You bet that I will never vote for those who gave them immunity. I vote for the politicians to be put away as abusers and criminals they are.

  11. The underlying case has already been to SCOTUS who denied cert in Fogarty. Given that and the fact they actually have a mandatory duty to ensure due process from the OAS charter treaty which means they can’t have immunity-immunity would be for that which is not mandatory—you can’t claim to not know what you should have done as part of your job.

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