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Dana Ault v. Lesliespeicher

March 3, 2011

DANA AULT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LESLIESPEICHER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.No. 3:07-c-398-David R. Herndon, Chief Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: " Mccuskey, District Judge.

ARGUED DECEMBER 6, 2010-DECIDED MARCH 3,2011

Before BAUER and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges, and MCCUSKEY, District Judge.

Family Services (DCFS) Child Welfare Specialist, for violating her rights to familial association under the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Plaintiff claims that Defendant interfered with her parental rights during a DCFS investigation in 2004-2005. The district court granted Defendant's motion for sum-mary judgment. The court found that Defendant did not infringe on Plaintiff's right to familial association because Plaintiff had the option of disagreeing with the service plan prepared by DCFS and could challenge Defendant's authority in state court. The district court concluded that summary judgment was proper because Defendant was entitled to qualified immunity.

Plaintiff has appealed, arguing (1) the district court misconstrued evidentiary facts; (2) there are material facts in dispute regarding Defendant's restrictions on Plaintiff's relationship with her children; and (3) the district court improperly granted summary judgment on qualified immunity. Because we find that the district court properly granted summary judgment based on qualified immunity, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is the mother of four children (SY and KY from her first marriage, and TM and CM from her second marriage). Defendant is employed by the DCFS as a Child Welfare Specialist, serving as a caseworker assigned to coordinate and provide services for families in need. At the time of the incident Plaintiff was divorced and in a relationship with Eric Ogle (whom she later married).

On September 1, 2004, DCFS received a hotline tip of suspected physical abuse of Plaintiff's 4-year old, TM, at the hands of Ogle. DCFS commenced an investigation, and Plaintiff chose to have all four children reside with her mother and stepfather, Teresa and Tommy Samsil, rather than risk having her children placed in foster care. The next day DCFS created a "safety plan," to which Plaintiff agreed, that set as conditions an arrangement for her children to continue residing with the Samsils. The plan expired on September 16, 2004.

DCFS's investigation "indicated" Ogle for physical abuse of TM. The case was an "intact family case" meaning that the family unit remained intact and DCFS did not have any legal relationship with Plaintiff's children. Once the investigation was completed Defendant was assigned as a caseworker for Plaintiff's family because Ogle was indicated for abusing TM and Plaintiff continued to maintain a relationship with him. Defendant developed the first service plan with Plaintiff and Ogle on October 21, 2004, which Plaintiff voluntarily signed.

The first service plan included the following provisions: (1) the children would continue to reside with the Samsils at least through the 2004-2005 school year;

(2) they would continue to reside with the Samsils at least until such time that all counselors involved agreed that it would not be detrimental to the children's safety for the family to reunite; (3) Plaintiff and Ogle would attend counseling and parenting classes; (4) Ogle would attend substance abuse counseling; (5) Ogle's contact with Plaintiff's children would be supervised; and (6) Plaintiff's two oldest children (SY and KY) would attend counseling.

The plan included information regarding the service appeal process if Plaintiff did not agree with any of the provisions. Plaintiff could write down her disagreements and send it to Defendant's supervisor. Plaintiff believed that if she did not sign the DCFS service plans, DCFS could come with the police and take away her children.

In December 2004 domestic battery charges were filed against Ogle in the circuit court based on the same allegations of injuries to TM from the September 1, 2004, DCFS hotline tip. In March 2005 the court entered a no contact order under which Ogle was not to have any contact with Plaintiff's four children. The felony domestic battery charge against Ogle was dismissed in May 2005. Shortly afterward, the state filed a misdemeanor domestic battery charge based on the same ...


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