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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In Siliven, et al. v. Ind. Dept. of Child Services (SD Ind., Lawrence), a 20-page opinion, Judge Flaum writes:

In January 2008, Teresa Siliven discovered bruises on her then-two-year-old son C.S.’s arm a few hours after picking him up from daycare at the home of Ashley Woods. Teresa’s husband Mark told her that he did not know how C.S. had gotten the bruises. The Silivens filed a child abuse report with the police. The case was referred to the Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”), and assigned to case manager Amber Luedike. Towards the end of an eight-day investigation into both Woods and the Silivens, Luedike discovered a DCS file indicating that Mark had been accused of child abuse by his then-fifteen-year-old stepdaughter in 2003. The day after Luedike discovered the report, she and Terry Suttle, the director of the Wayne County DCS, decided to remove C.S. from the Siliven home. They did not obtain a court order as it was Friday afternoon, and they did not believe there was adequate time to do so. Instead of putting C.S. in foster care, Luedike and Suttle ultimately arranged to have Teresa take C.S. to his grandmother’s house in Ohio. A detention hearing was held the following Monday, after which the court concluded that no probable cause existed at that time to believe that C.S.’s physical health was seriously endangered. The Silivens were permitted to take C.S. home. Soon thereafter, the investigation was closed.

The Silivens filed suit against Luedike, Suttle, and the Indiana DCS, alleging constitutional and state law violations. The district court concluded that Suttle and Luedike (the only defendants at issue on appeal) were entitled to summary judgment on the federal claims on qualified immunity grounds, finding that the constitutional rights allegedly violated were not clearly established in January 2008. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the district court. * * *

We are not unsympathetic to the Silivens. One can only imagine their frustration when, after reporting potential abuse of their child by a third party, the investigation came to focus on them. However, for the reasons stated above, we conclude that the particular interference with the Silivens’ constitutional rights that occurred here was reasonable in view of the facts known by defendants and the state’s strong interest in protecting children from abuse. For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 16, 2011 11:25 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions