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February 14, 2001
North Hudson DYFS v. Koehler Family
Appellate court reverses order allowing entry into the home

Filed: December 18, 2000, Jersey City.

Nature of Case: Bill & Shereelynn Koehler and their five children were the subject of a bogus referral to the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services ("DYFS") alleging that the children don't wear socks in the winter or sleep in beds. Relying on what he believed to be his Fourth Amendment right to be safe and secure in his home, Mr. Koehler refused to permit the DYFS caseworker to interview his children or inspect his home. On our advice, Mr. Koehler made DYFS go to court to get an order. DYFS proceeded to the Superior Court to request an order to investigate.

Rulings:

1/31/01
HSLDA represented the family at a hearing on the Motion to Show Cause why an order to investigate should not be issued. A Superior Court judge observed that the New Jersey child abuse investigation statute authorizes a court order to investigate when it is "in the best interest of the child." HSLDA's arguments that there was no probable cause to support the issuance of a court order were unheeded. The trial judge ruled that the children should be interviewed and the home entered for investigation. Though the children were interviewed in the presence of counsel immediately following the hearing, the order to investigate was scheduled 48-hours later. It was during that time that HSLDA applied to the Appellate Division for a stay and reversal of the order.
2/6/01
The Appellate Division granted the emergency application for a stay and gave both sides 48-hours to supply additional briefing.
2/9/01
After reviewing the briefs of all parties, the appellate court ruled that the order to investigate the Koehler home was in violation of the law and must be reversed. The Court explained, "[a]bsent some tangible evidence of abuse or neglect, the Courts do not authorize fishing expeditions into citizens' houses." The Court went on to say, "[m]ere parroting of the phrase "best interest of the child" without supporting facts and a legal basis is insufficient to support a Court order based on reasonableness or any other ground."

Last Updated: February 14, 2001.