Skip to comments.Need for a search warrant trips social workers
Posted on 02/06/2003 7:51:23 PM PST by Jean S
Ohio authorities not aware of Fourth Amendment protections
Erie County, OH A home schooling family has settled its case against Erie County social workers and Vermilion police for the coerced entry into the familys home on Feb. 21, 2001.
Courts have settled this key issue in other jurisdictions, and now its settled in this jurisdiction. Social workers cannot enter a home, willy-nilly, without a warrant, said Gary McCaleb, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, the national legal organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona, that supported the case.
Paul and Linda Walsh filed a lawsuit after police and caseworkers entered their home without a warrant and without permission. The social workers said they were acting on an anonymous tip about unspecified hazards in the home, and claimed they had a right to enter the home without a warrant.
The social workers threatened the family, saying that if they were not allowed in the home they would take the children away from the parents. In papers filed with the court, the Walshes said that a social worker even blocked their driveway with her car when the family tried to leave to attend a church function that evening.
The social worker summoned police, who frisked Mr. Walsh and threatened to arrest him on charges of obstructing official business if he did not allow the caseworkers into the home. Walsh said that he then allowed the workers to enter the home rather than risk being jailed.
The caseworkers found nothing in the home that constituted an immediate hazard to the family.
Instead of tolerating this official abuse, the Walshes chose to sue the caseworkers, the Erie County Department of Job and Family Services, the Erie County Board of Commissioners, the City of Vermilion, Ohio; and three Vermilion police officers.
Defendants told the court that the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against illegal searches and seizures do not apply to them in such circumstances. They asked the court to throw the case out, but the court refused. The court said the facts supported the Walshes claims against the defendants for unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as for false imprisonment, assault, battery, and infliction of emotional distress.
In a forceful opinion, US District Judge James G. Carr wrote: Despite the Defendants exaggerated view of their powers, the Fourth Amendment applies to them, as it does to all other officers and agents of the state whose requests to enter, however benign or well-intentioned, are met by a closed door. There is...no social worker exception to the strictures of the Fourth Amendment. ...Any agency that expects to send its employees routinely into private homes has a fundamental obligation to ensure that those employees understand the constitutional limits on their authority.
The court stated that because the Walshes refused consent, and because the anonymous complaint did not supply persuasive evidence of an emergency, the caseworkers had no option but to either leave the [Walshes] alone and in peace or seek a search warrant.
The court further ruled that the police did not have probable cause to detain, frisk, and threaten to arrest Walsh, since he was not breaking any law but merely asserting his fundamental right to be left alone.
Kurt D. Anderson, a partner with the Elyria firm of Fauver, Keyse-Walker & Donovan, represents the Walshes. Anderson, a graduate of Alliance Defense Fund's second National Litigation Academy, said the training gave him the background to help the Walshes when the opportunity arose.
ADF's training and resources really helped us confront an issue that, unfortunately, had apparently never been addressed in Ohio before, Anderson said. As far as we could tell, nobody in Ohio had ever challenged a caseworker's home inspection for failure to get a warrant. As a home schooling parent myself, I really took the Walshes situation to heart. I admire them for their courage to stand up for their rights, but it's a crying shame that it would even have to come to that. Its just a reminder that we have to be vigilant and assertive about protecting our rights. They can be trampled on even by well-meaning but uninformed government agents.
Anderson expects that as a result of the Walsh case, training policies will be revised for social workers not just in Erie County, but across the state of Ohio. The caseworkers in the Walsh case admitted they had never been taught anything about the Fourth Amendment or search warrants. The feedback I'm getting is that agencies across the state have gotten a wake-up call on this issue.
Anderson declined to reveal the specific amount of the settlement, which was not stated in the court record.
For more information about home schooling and the law, please contact the Home School Legal Defense Association, an ally of the Alliance Defense Fund. HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville can be reached at (540) 338-5600.
The Alliance Defense Fund is a servant organization serving people of faith. The Alliance Defense Fund provides strategy, training, and funding in the legal battle for religious liberty, sanctity of life, and traditional family values.
The case worker added "I would have read the constitution, but it had so many big words in it.
God save us, please.
Hurray for this family! I hope we start seeing more of these social-nazi thugs going to court.
Once again the innocent taxpayers are forced to pay for the goonish, jack booted thug tactics of the local Gestapo social workers and police.
The police and social workers responsible for this travesty should be fired, jailed, and then subjected to personal liability for their actions. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize tyranny.
"Obstructing Official Business ". AAgghhh.
I can think of many,many households (Mine included)where this little Constitutional drama would not have played out as well as this one did.
I salute Mr.&Mrs. Walsh for keeping their cool in front of their children and the Jack-Booted Gestapo. And I hope and prey that Judge Carr stays on the bench for a long,long time.
It's about time these gubmint agencies got their chain jerked!
Several months ago, there was a thread about either this case or a similar one. I was thinking it was in North Carolina.
Anyone have a link to that thread?
I'm curious to see if anyone took the side of the social agency.
Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991) State officers may be held personally liable for damages based upon actions taken in their official capacities.
Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U.S. 56 (1992) State or local officials who stand by or protect an unlawful eviction or seizure are liable for damages under 42 USC 1983.
Let the fun begin.
Yes, a cryin' shame. Illegal search and seizure under the 'we're here to help you' rationale; threats by the state to take their children! (Shades of Stalinist Russia!)
Thank heaven for the Alliance Defense Fund and similar organizations. The ACLU is conspicuous by its total absence from these cases.
I would like to check your "resolve" behind this statement.
Formulating my conslusions from the perspective of a "presumption of liberty" as well as the fact that we allow ourselves to be governed by a "constitutional republic" form of government versus be governed by a "democracy," government mandated federalized security personnel used to search my person and belongings before I board a privately owned aircraft violates the 4th amendment (no warrant before the search), violates the 5th amendment right of the airline's owners (nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation), and violates the 9th amendment of my right to travel. (The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.)
In addition, a government law not allowing the citizens to be armed while on public property, municipal airports, violates the 2nd amendment, as well.
Of course, all of this government unconstitutional activity is being done under the guise of "we're here to help you" rationale.
And yes the ACLU is conspicuous by it's absence in these cases because I asked them to help me file federal lawsuits against the Patriot Act and they would not touch it.
Think it over.