Saturday, September 3, 2005
Case Law Developments: Prospective Adoptive Parent Has No Cause Of Action Under §1983 Based On Reputational Damage Caused By Wrongful Identification As A Child Abuser
Behrens v. Regier, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 18807 (11th Cir. August 31, 2005)
Father sues Florida child protection agency under §1983 for violation of his procedural due process rights when it classified him as a "verified" child abuser without giving him the benefit of a name-clearing hearing. The classification arose out of an earlier incident in which father had dropped his infant. Both civil and criminal proceedings were dismissed for a failure to establish child abuse, but the state agency maintained his name in their records as a verified child abuser. Father and his wife wanted to adopt another child and he asserted that, because of his classification in state records, they were unable to do so.
While the court readily conceded that Father’s classification as a child abuser was stigmatizing, Father was unable to show that the stigma interfered with a protected constitutional right. The court noted that not even grandparents or foster parents have a protected liberty interest in prospective adoptions, so that Father here clearly had no such right. Thus, Father was limited to state law remedies.
Text of opinion on web at http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200414820.pdf