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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ind. Courts - "DCS to Appeals Court: You Can't Make Us Hire More Caseworkers"

This morning a Court of Appeals panel (Judges Riley, Kirsch and Robb) heard oral argument in the case of Mary Price v. Indiana Department of Child Services.

49A05-1602-PL-00380 is the case docket, from which you may download the briefs, but not the trial court ruling. You may watch the archived video of the oral argument here.

Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Media attended the argument and posted this story this afternoon. Some quotes:

Indiana law says the Department of Child Services must provide enough caseworkers so that the average caseload doesn’t exceed 17 children.

All but one of the 19 regions in the state exceeds that standard. Caseworker Mary Price oversees 43 children.

The ACLU of Indiana sued DCS on Price’s behalf, trying to force the agency to hire more caseworkers. A trial court judge ruled that Price had no right to bring the suit and should use administrative channels.

In front of the Court of Appeals, attorney for DCS Frances Barrow, in an exchange with Appellate Judge Margret Robb, argued that even if Price can sue, DCS is already doing everything it can to meet the standards.

And Barrow says there’s nothing a court could further order them to do -- even as Judge Robb expressed skepticism:

“You’re saying it’s reasonable to ask them to do two-and-a-half to three times what the statute says they should be doing,” Robb asked Barrow.

“They are doing probably the most difficult job in state government,” Barrow responded.

But ACLU legal director Ken Falk says only the court system can provide a legitimate remedy.

“DCS’ failure to comply obviously hurts us all but it specifically injures the family case managers, whose caseloads are directly benefitted by the statute, if it would be complied with,” Falk says.

Reporter Smith also posted over a dozen informative tweets during the argument itself, which you may access at @brandonjsmith5.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 20, 2016 06:29 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts