Henry A. v. Willden

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Juvenile Law
  • Date Filed: 05-04-2012
  • Case #: 10-17680
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judges Hug and Paez
  • Full Text Opinion

The 2 exceptions--"special relationship" and "state-created danger"--to the general rule that Due Process does not impose affirmative duties on the government should not be read too narrowly when evaluating claims that a state failed to provide basic rights of safety and proper medical care to foster children.

Plaintiff foster children appeal the FRCP 12(b)(6) dismissal of their Due Process and statutory claims against state and county officials. The Court reviews the claims for the applicability of exceptions to the general rule that the 14th Amendment does not impose an affirmative duty on the government. Finding that the district court erred in determining that the rights plaintiffs claimed were violated were not clearly established constitutional rights, the Court reverses the district court's finding of qualified immunity. The proper analysis applies a 2-part test to "(1) determine... the contours of a foster child's clearly established rights at the time of the challenged conduct under the 'special relationship' doctrine of substantive due process, and (2) examine... whether a reasonable official would have understood that the specific conduct alleged by Plaintiffs violated those rights." The district court also improperly disregarded the state-created danger exception because in the 9th circuit "the fact that the dangerous foster homes 'already existed' is irrelevant" because "the doctrine only applies in situations where the plaintiff was directly harmed by a third party." The dismissal of statutory CWA claims was also improper because the Court finds that CWA establishes a right to case plans. CAPTA, on the other hand, does not unambiguously create an enforceable individual right, so the claims under that statute were properly dismissed. REVERSED in part, AFFIRMED in part, and REMANDED.

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