(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Tuesday affirmed dismissal of a proposed class action brought by foster children in Sacramento County against California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and other court officials over allegedly “crushing and unlawful caseloads” in the county’s dependency court.
Approximately 5,100 foster children claimed that heavy caseloads in the court violated their federal and state constitutional rights.
The case “involves average attorney caseloads and the right to counsel, with remedies potentially involving a substantial interference with the operation of the program, including allocation of the judicial branch budget, establishment of program priorities, and court administration,” according to the nine-page decision.
A federal judge had granted the officials’ motion to dismiss on abstention grounds. The San Francisco-based appellate panel affirmed in an unsigned opinion.
“Federal courts may not entertain actions that seek to impose ‘an ongoing federal audit of state … proceedings,'” the three-judge panel explained.
“The District Court properly concluded that ‘plaintiffs’ challenges to the juvenile dependency court system necessarily require the court to intrude upon the state’s administration of its government, and more specifically, its court system,'” it added.
“Because the question is one of adequacy of attorney representation, potential remediation might involve examination of the administration of substantial number of individual cases,” the decision states. “Thus, we conclude that the declaratory relief sought by plaintiffs so intrudes in the administration of the Sacramento County Dependency Court as to require abstention.”