Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, caught up in the high-profile Obamacare arguments that started today, have refused to intervene in a case in which deputies threatened parents with the forced removal of their children unless they agreed to let social workers, who did not have a warrant or probable case, search their home.
The stunning conclusion came in a lawsuit brought on behalf of John and Tiffany Loudermilk, who sued officials after a confrontation at their Maricopa County, Ariz., home in 2005.
A district court judge ruled a reasonable person would believe the Loudermilks’ decision to allow social workers to search their home was coerced, in violation of the 4th Amendment. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the search was proper.
The case may not be finished, as the opinion from the 9th Circuit was unpublished, which means that it is not binding on future cases. Also, when the deputies appealed to the 9th Circuit for immunity, the social workers who also were sued did not, and that part of the case remains on hold at the district court level.
James Mason, chief counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which brought the case on behalf of the family, told WND that the group will consult with the family and soon make a determination on the next step.
But he said the result is disappointing, because no matter the status of the appeal, the situation did develop, and the threats were made to give the social workers what they wanted.
The HSLDA described the situation: “For 40 terrifying minutes, this homeschooling couple had asserted their Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search of their home. The two investigative social workers were eventually joined by six uniformed sheriff’s deputies who were called because the social workers considered the Loudermilks to be ‘uncooperative.’”
Then social workers played their “ace-in-the-hole” and threatened the parents that their five children would be placed in state custody immediately if they did not allow the search.
The case developed after a still-anonymous tipster told authorities that there was a danger to the children in the new home. Two months later, social services arrived unannounced at the home and explained that it was an emergency because social workers decided it was an emergency at that point.
“In the two months between receiving the anonymous report and arriving unannounced on the Loudermilks’ front porch, social services clearly never believed that the situation needed emergency intervention,” HSLDA asserted. “No one ever asked a judge for a court order. But when it came time for the social workers to complete their investigation, the family’s Fourth Amendment rights just got in the way.”
It was social workers Rhonda Cash and Jenna Cramer who appeared at the home unannounced and threatened to take the family’s five children.
“She (Cash) appeared to believe that her simple inability to determine the children’s living conditions was sufficient grounds for her to remove the children from their parents,” the petition to the high court explained. That’s even though the social workers were allowed to talk to the children to see that they were fine.
The social workers called on the deputies to reinforce the threats with the force of law.
“Faced with unrelenting ultimatum that the officers would physically remove the children from the home unless they were admitted, together with a significant show of force, John felt that he had no option besides allowing the search of his home. He believed that he would be arrested and the children removed if he continued to refuse… Tiffany believed her children would be immediately removed from the home if she did not allow the social workers and officers to search her home,” the appeal stated.
The ultimate search took only minutes and uncovered no issues, showing that the “tip” was wrong.
“In this case, the lead law enforcement officer concluded that there was no basis for suggesting that exigent circumstances existed which would support a warrantless entry,” the brief explained.
Mason suggested that the outcome of the confrontation could provide a ripple effect for families confronted by authorities investigating anonymous tips in a variety of scenarios.