Tuesday, August 6, 2013

No Constitutional Violation in Aggressive Child Protection Case

In its opinion in D.B. v. Kopp, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district judge's dismissal of an equal protection "class of one" claim against Grant County (Wisconsin) and certain officials because they "overzealously

442px-Albert_Roosenboom_The_Young_Doctor
"The Young Doctor" 19th Century
investigated and maliciously prosecuted" D.B., a six year old, who was "playing doctor" with two five year olds. 

 

The mother of the five year old twins was the adult who discovered the interaction and who "reported the incident to her sister-in-law, who happened to be the regional supervisor in charge of the state agency that administers family and children’s services."  The father of the twins was a public official in the town.  D.B. alleges that he was singled out, "charged" with sexual assault although the twins admitted their actions were the same, and that D.B. was "subjected to an overbearing investigation and unjustified court proceedings based on improper political favoritism."

In rejecting the claim, the Seventh Circuit found that the fact that the twins' mother witnessed D.B.'s actions was sufficient to support the state's actions. It reasoned that while

political connections may also plausibly explain why D.B. was targeted for investigation and the twins were not. But the test for rationality does not ask whether the benign justification was the actual justification. All it takes to defeat the plaintiffs’ claim is a conceivable rational basis for the difference in treatment.

(emphasis in original).  The opinion added that:

We are not suggesting that this was a well-administered investigation, or a wise exercise of prosecutorial discretion, for that matter. Our decision today should not be understood as an endorsement of this use of state power, which strikes us (assuming the allegations are true) as a troubling overreaction to a situation that could and should have been handled informally. It’s easy to understand why the twins’ mother would be alarmed and upset, but it’s also reasonable to expect that the response by Grant County officials would be measured and proportionate. As the district court aptly put it, accusing a six-year-old boy of first-degree sexual assault shows “poor judgment at best.” But poor judgment does not violate the Constitution.

Surely, there might be cases in which "poor judgment" would "violate the Constitution," but the court finds this is not one of those cases.

RR
[image via]

[corrected: Seventh Circuit]

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/conlaw/2013/08/no-constitutional-violation-for-aggressive-child-protection-case.html

Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality | Permalink

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