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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Suit Over Child Abuse Probe Partially Revived

(CN) - The 9th Circuit barred Fourth Amendment claims against an Oregon social worker and an officer who pulled a girl from her classroom and questioned her about her father's alleged sexual abuse. But the court reversed a grant of immunity on the mother's 14th Amendment claims against the caseworker.

The girl's mother, Sarah Greene, sued Bob Camreta, a caseworker with the Oregon Department of Human Services, and deputy sheriff James Alford, claiming they interviewed one of her daughters without a warrant, probable cause or parental consent.

She also accused Camreta of lying in order to have her two daughters removed from the home, and excluding her from their physical exams.

Camreta and Alford were prompted to act when Nimrod Greene, the girls' father, was arrested for allegedly molesting a 7-year-old boy. According to the boy's mother, Sarah Greene had complained that she "doesn't like the way Nimrod makes (his daughters) sleep in his bed when he is intoxicated and she doesn't like the way he acts when they are sitting on his lap."

After interviewing one of the girls, Camreta concluded that she'd been sexually abused and had the girls removed from the home.

Nimrod was later charged with sexually assaulting the 7-year-old boy and one of his own daughters. Following a mistrial, he accepted a plea bargain in which he maintained his innocence but admitted that there was enough evidence to convict him.

Sarah Greene insisted the allegations were lies. The daughter who'd been interviewed later recanted her statements, though examiners suspected she did so in order to speed up her return home.

The district court dismissed the suit against Camreta and Alford, and the 9th Circuit partially reversed.

Though Camreta and Alford violated the girls' constitutional rights, their actions were "not so clearly invalid as to strip them of immunity," Judge Marsha Berzon wrote.

But the court said Camreta is not immune from the claim that he lied about the family's financial situation in order to have the girls removed from their home.

The court also allowed the Greenes to sue Camreta for allegedly excluding Sarah from her daughters' physical exams.

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