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January 24, 2011

Appellate Briefs Filed in Arizona Illegal-Search Case

In March of 2005, two social workers and six deputy sheriffs descended on the home of John and Tiffany Loudermilk to “investigate” a two-month-old anonymous tip that their house was unsafe for children. After almost an hour of threats, the social workers finally threatened to take all of their children into custody if not allowed inside. The Loudermilks reluctantly agreed. The assembled officials took less than five minutes to determine that the allegations in the anonymous report were false.

HSLDA reviewed the case and sued the social workers, their attorney, and four of the deputies for violating the Loudermilks’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. We also sued the social workers for threatening to remove their children without justification.

The judge denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss in September 2007, and then denied their motions for summary judgment in March 2010. The deputies appealed, claiming that they should be immune from liability because, they said, the right to be free from unreasonable searches was not clear enough for them to realize that threatening to remove a child if not allowed inside the home violated the Fourth Amendment.

Click here to read their brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

In HSLDA’s answering brief, we argued that the law has been clearly established for at least 10 years, ever since we successfully sued social workers on behalf of the Calabretta family in a similar case. We also demonstrated that any reasonable officer should know that threatening to remove a child to gain the “cooperation” of the parents is inherently coercive and that the officers should have known so at the time.

Within the next few weeks the appellate court will either decide the case or will schedule oral argument. In the meantime, proceedings in the trial court are on hold.

 Other Resources

“Judge Upholds Family’s Right to Day in Court”

July/August 2010 Court Report: “Family Wins Round Two”

September/October 2009 Court Report: “Arguments Proceed in Federal Lawsuit”

January/February 2008 Court Report: “Judge Slams Coercive Tactics”

“Judge Rules Social Worker Fear Tactics Unconstitutional”

“Social Workers and Sheriff’s Deputies Violate Family’s 4th and 14th Amendment Rights”