SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The full 9th Circuit vacated a 2003 decision granting absolute immunity to social workers who provide false information to juvenile court judges making custody decisions.
The case involves a child whose mother allegedly suffered from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, a condition in which a parent intentionally keeps a child ill to get medical attention. The mother claimed the diagnosis was false and accused two Santa Clara County social workers of making up evidence and hiding information that was favorable to parents.
A three-judge panel held that social workers have absolute immunity for statements they submit to the court, including dependency and custody petitions, even if those statements are false.
In a four-page opinion, the en banc circuit ruled that social workers are entitled to absolute immunity for making the decision to bring custody cases to court, but not for fabricating evidence or making false statements. See ruling.