Decisions in Civil Rights Case Involving Foster Care Placement, Plus Sentencing and Immigrations Matters

By FindLaw Staff on March 05, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Fourth Circuit decided two immigration cases and a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 case involving whether defendants are liable for a child who has been involuntarily removed from her home by state social workers and knowingly placed in a dangerous foster care environment. 

In Doe v. S. Carolina Dep't of Soc. Servs., No. 08-2161, the court faced a challenge to district court's grant of defendants' summary judgment motion in a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 case by a minor child and her adoptive parents.  Under DeShaney, when a state involuntarily removes a child from her home, thereby taking her into its custody and care, the state has taken an affirmative act to restrain the child's liberty that triggers due process protections and some responsibility for the child's safety and well being.  Thus, the state officials in this case had a duty to restrain from placing the plaintiff in a known, dangerous environment in deliberate indifference to her right to personal safety and security.  However, under the second prong of the qualified immunity inquiry, district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant is affirmed as, at the time of the placement, such a right was not clearly established in this circuit.

With respect to the parents' section 1983 claim that defendant violated their substantive due process rights by placing the child in their home without fully disclosing her history, judgment of the district court is affirmed as adoptive parents have no such right to the disclosure of a child's history of sexual abuse.  Finally, with respect to plaintiffs' state law claim for gross negligence against the officials who handled the adoption, district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants is vacated for consideration of the applicability of section 15-78-60(25).

In US v. Mendoza-Mendoza, No. 08-5007, the court faced a challenge to a district court's imposition of a substantial enhancement to the defendant's sentence based on his earlier indecent liberties conviction.  In sentencing, the court stated that although it did not agree with the Guidelines range, it was obligated to iimpose a Guidelines sentence unless a reason for departure or a variance existed.

In reversing the sentence, the court explained that the district court's prefacing a sentencing explanation with such an obligatory terminology amounted to an impermissible presumption that the Guidelines sentence is appropriate.

In Kporlor v. Holder, No. 08-2363, the court addressed the issue of whether it had jurisdiction to hear a petition fpr review BIA's denial of petitioner's applications for withholding of removal and other related relief.

In affirming the decision, the court explained that under 8 U.S.C. section 1252(a)(2)(C), it lacked jurisidction to review BIA's denials of withholding of removals in cases involving aliens convicted of committing crimes of moral turpitude.  Moreover, the court lacks jurisdiction to review the CAT claims because petitioner did not exhaust his administrative remedies by appealing the IJ's denial of the claim. 


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