Tuesday, December 6, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Nixes Father’s Suit Against Social Workers

(CN) - The father of a girl who claimed she was molested by the father of her mother's live-in boyfriend cannot sue two social workers and a deputy sheriff for failing to keep him informed about what was happening with his daughter, the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday.

Daniel James and Gail Sherman had joint legal custody of their daughter, who lived with Sherman and her live-in boyfriend, Shawn Blair.

In February 2003, the girl, a minor, told her maternal grandmother that Blair's father had molested her. The grandmother reported this to Child Protective Services and gained temporary custody of her granddaughter during the trial.

James fought for custody, but the court award sole legal and physical custody to the girl's maternal grandmother.

James then sued social workers Bobbie Rowlands and Vivian Vaught, and Nevada County deputy sheriff Steve Tripp, claiming they violated his due process and equal protection rights by failing to notify him about the molestation investigation and his daughter's changes in custody during trial. He also said they informed him that Blair allegedly tried to coerce his daughter into changing her testimony at trial.

The lower court ruled for the defendants on all claims.

The 9th Circuit said the social workers had violated James' "substantive due process right to participate in the care, custody, and management of his daughter by failing to notify him of her detention and placement in temporary protective custody and of the subsequent agreement transferring her physical custody for the duration of the molestation trial."

However, the panel ultimately determined that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, because "James' right to this information was not clearly established."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.