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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Turning 18 Moots Fourth Amendment Finding

(CN) - An Oregon social worker is no longer liable for violating the civil rights of a child who was interviewed without a warrant about her father's alleged sexual abuse, the 9th Circuit ruled Monday, vacating its finding on orders from the U.S. Supreme Court.

In May, the justices ruled, 7-2, that the constitutional allegation became moot since the girl turned 18 years old and has moved out of the state.

The case began in 2003 when Oregon Department of Human Services caseworker Bob Camreta and Deputy Sheriff James Alford interview 9-year-old S.G. at her elementary school about her father's alleged misconduct. They had neither a warrant nor parental consent to conduct the interview. S.G. admitted that she had been abused, and eventually her father went to trial, though the charges were later dismissed.

S.G.'s mother sued Camreta and Alford for violating the child's Fourth Amendment rights.

A federal judge ruled that the officials deserved immunity, but the 9th Circuit partially reversed in 2009, finding that that the officials had violated S.G.'s rights with the warrantless interview.

After the Supreme Court agreed to review the case, a majority of justices vacated the Fourth Amendment finding because S.G. had turned 18 and thus no longer had a stake in the case.

"S. G. can no longer claim the plaintiff's usual stake in preserving the court's holding because she no longer needs protection from the challenged practice," Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court. "She has moved to Florida and is only months away from her 18th birthday and, presumably, from her high school graduation."

Heeding this view, the 9th Circuit vacated the offending section of its opinion on Monday.

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