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Name: Humphries v. County of Los Angeles
Case #: 05-56467
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 11/05/2008

Penal Code section 11170, subdivision (a)(2), the California law establishing an index of suspected child abusers, violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment as it does not provide identified individuals a fair opportunity to challenge the allegations. The law establishing the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) requires police to send the Attorney General’s Office reports of every case of child abuse or severe neglect that they investigate and determine to be either true or inconclusive, i.e., every case except those that are found to be false or “inherently improbable.” The state is then required to make the list available to a variety of public agencies and private employers. State and county licensing agencies must consult the list for all prospective child care workers and some foster parents. Schools and police departments are allowed to check job applicants’ names against the list. Petitioners were placed on the list after their 15-year-old daughter accused them of abusing her. The couple was arrested and their other two children placed in protective custody, but the charges were dropped after a medical examination disclosed that no abuse had occurred. A criminal court later found the couple “factually innocent.” Under the law, plaintiffs’ only chance to get their names removed from the child abuse list was to persuade the investigating deputy that the allegations were unfounded, but they were unsuccessful when the sheriff’s department told them the deputy no longer worked there, and a supervisor decided some crime must have occurred because charges were filed. With no further appeal possible, plaintiffs alleged that the listing was an obstacle to their plans to volunteer at a local child care center and could hurt Mrs. Humphries’s chances of renewing her teaching credential. In the federal civil action, the court found that the stigma of being listed in the CACI and the statutory consequences of being listed constituted a liberty interest, of which plaintiffs can not be deprived without due process. However, the requisite due process is not met because the procedure provided to correct erroneous information in the CACI is inadequate.