9th circuit Preslie Hardwick v. Marcia Vreeken

Judges Reject Orange County’s Claim That Social Workers Didn’t Know Lying In Court Was Wrong

By R. Scott Moxley
OC Weekly

Excerpts:

Using taxpayer funds, government officials in Orange County have spent the last 16 years arguing the most absurd legal proposition in the entire nation: How could social workers have known it was wrong to lie, falsify records and hide exculpatory evidence in 2000 so that a judge would forcibly take two young daughters from their mother for six-and-a-half years?

From the you-can’t-make-up-this-crap file, county officials are paying Lynberg & Watkins, a private Southern California law firm specializing in defending cops in excessive force lawsuits, untold sums to claim the social workers couldn’t have “clearly” known that dishonesty wasn’t acceptable in court and, as a back up, even if they did know, they should enjoy immunity for their misdeeds because they were government employees.

A panel at the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on Orange County’s appeal of federal judge Josephine L. Staton’s refusal last year to grant immunity to the bureaucrats in Preslie Hardwick v. County of Orange, a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages. In short, judges Stephen S. Trott, John B. Owens and Michelle T. Friedland were not amused. They affirmed Staton’s decision.

But to grasp the ridiculousness of the government’s stance, read key, Oct. 7, 2016 exchanges between the panel and Pancy Lin, a partner at Lynberg & Watkins.

Trott: How in the world could a person in the shoes of your clients possibly believe that it was appropriate to use perjury and false evidence in order to impair somebody’s liberty interest in the care, custody and control of that person’s children? How could they possibly not be on notice that you can’t do this?

Lin: I understand.

Trott: How could that possibly be?

Lin: I understand the argument that it seems to be common sense in our ethical, moral . . .

Trott: It’s more than common sense. It’s statutes that prohibit perjury and submission of false evidence in court cases.

Lin: State statutes.

Trott: Are you telling me that a person in your client’s shoes couldn’t understand you can’t commit perjury in a court proceeding in order to take somebody’s children away?

Lin: Of course not, your honor.

Trott: Of course not!

Owens: Isn’t the case over then?

Trott: The case is over.

Lin: Thus far we have not been presented with a clearly established right that tells us what our clients did which was remove the children pursuant to a court order . .

Friedland: The issue here is committing perjury in a court to take away somebody’s children and you just said that’s obviously not okay to do.

Lin: According to our moral compass and our ethical guidelines, but we’re here to decide the constitutionality of it and we look to the courts to tell us.

Trott: You mean to tell us due process is consistent with a government official submitting perjured testimony and false evidence? How is that consistent? I mean I hate to get pumped up about this but I’m just staggered by the claim that people in the shoes of your clients wouldn’t be on notice that you can’t use perjury and false evidence to take away somebody’s children. That to me is mind boggling.

Watch the entire exchange with the judges:

Read the full article at OC Weekly.

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