Defending a Lawsuit Against Motion to Dismiss
Case: L Family v. Administration for Children, Youth and Families
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.