Dupuy v. McEwen
also known as Dupuy v. Samuels, Dupuy v. McDonald, Dupuy v. McEwen, Smith v. McDonald and Tara S. v. McDonald
This case against the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) addressed the constitutionality of the “credible evidence” standard for indicated child abuse and neglect reports, the procedures applied during investigations, and an inadequate expungement process. The suit sought injunctive relief on behalf of (1) child care workers terminated from employment due to abuse reports and (2) children and families who were subjected to unconstitutional practices. The case also addressed other constitutional issues, such as the policy and practice of instituting involuntary safety plans without due process protections and the fairness of the administrative hearing process.
FILE NO., COURT, AND DATE FILED
97-C-4199 (N.D. Ill., June 11, 1997)
1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7621(N.D. Ill. May 13, 1998); 141 F. Supp. 2d. 1090 (N.D. Ill. 2001); 2003 WL 21557911 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 10, 2003), aff’d in part, rev’d in part, and remanded by, 397 F.3d 493 (7th Cir. 2005); 462 F. Supp. 2d 859 (N.D. Ill. 2005); 2005 WL 588997 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 9, 2005); 2005 WL 1498468 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 10, 2005); 423 F.3d 714 (7th Cir. 2005)
CLEARINGHOUSE REVIEW NO.
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS
Lehrer and Redleaf
36 S. Wabash, Suite 600
Chicago, IL 60603
Fax: (312) 332-1717
Miller, Shakman & Hamilton
180 N. LaSalle Street, Ste. 1100
Chicago, IL 60601
Fax: (312) 263-3270
Snelling, Gilbert & Davis
36 S. Wabash, Suite 1310
Chicago, IL 60603
Jack L. Block
M. Marshall Seeder Andrew L. Matthews
Sachnoff & Weaver, Ltd
10 S. Wacker, 40th Floor
Chicago, IL 60606
Fax: (312) 207-6400
HISTORY AND STATUS
The court certified a class of over 145,000 persons who had been indicated as perpetrators of child abuse or neglect in DCFS reports maintained on the Central Register. At a summer 1999 hearing, plaintiffs proved error rates of seventy-five percent of the abuse findings on appeal. In March 2001, the district court held that defendant’s policies and practices with respect to “indicated reports” of child abuse, neglect, or both violated plaintiffs’ due process rights. The court gave the parties 60 days in which to develop constitutionally adequate procedures.
On July 10, 2003, the court entered a class-wide preliminary injunction directing DCFS to revise its system of conducting investigations. The court also found that plaintiffs had the right to a high level administrative review and a full hearing on the merits within 35 days. Previously, the DCFS administrative appeal system had averaged 18 months. The court found, however, that foster parents were adequately protected by the DCFS licensing procedures, and that they have no liberty interest in a foster care license that demands a pre-deprivation conference or an expedited appeal.
On February 5, 2005, the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court ruling. The Seventh Circuit found that being indicated for child abuse or neglect implicated plaintiffs’ liberty interest in pursuing their occupation; that DCFS could use the term “credible evidence” in articulating the standard of proof for placing a person who has been indicated as a perpetrator on the Central Register; that DCFS was required to provide an accused person an opportunity to respond to allegations before the case was indicated and disclosed on a report; that DCFS was required to adopt a 35-day expedited appeals process for indicated child care workers; that entrants to the child care field were entitled to notice and a hearing prior to being placed on the Central Register; and that the loss of reputation to foster parents placed on the Central Register did not give rise to any protected liberty interest.
The Dupuy plaintiffs also brought a claim for relief related to “safety plans,” which were used to direct family members to leave their homes or restrict contact with their children. On March 9, 2005, after a 22-day trial, the district court held that safety plans that last more than a few days violate substantive and procedural due process rights of families. In December 2005, the district court ordered a process for review of safety plans after 14 days. Plaintiffs appealed this order because the court authorized safety plans with “mere suspicion” and permitted the plans to remain in place without adequate or timely review.
On October 3, 2006, the Seventh Circuit issued a sweeping decision finding that safety plans were uniformly voluntary and upholding the lower court’s preliminary injunction decision only because defendants had failed to file a cross-appeal. On remand, defendants filed for summary judgment and the court granted the motion. Plaintiffs appealed to the Seventh Circuit, but the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Plaintiffs sought Supreme Court review of the decision, but their petition was denied.