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Name: Beltran v. Santa Clara County
Case #: 05-16976
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 01/24/2008
Summary

Social workers are not entitled to absolute immunity from claims that they fabricated evidence or made false statements. The Court of Appeals here reversed the district court’s summary judgment and remanded in a 42 U.S. § 1983 action brought by parents against a county social worker alleging that she fabricated evidence in connection with a child dependency petition. The district court, relying on Doe v. Lebbos (9th Cir. 2003) 348 F.3d 820, 825-826, held that the social worker was entitled to absolute immunity and dismissed the claims. In reversing the district court, the appellate court held that social workers have absolute immunity when they make discretionary, quasi-prosecutorial decisions to institute court dependency proceedings to take custody away from parents. However, they are not entitled to absolute immunity from claims that they fabricated evidence during an investigation or made false statements in a dependency petition affidavit that they signed under penalty of perjury, because such actions aren’t similar to discretionary decisions about whether to prosecute. The court overruled the prior decision in Doe v. Lebbos, and remanded for further proceedings.