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Name: Miller v. Department of Social Services
Case #: 02-16780
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 01/22/2004
Subsequent History: None

Appellants were the grandparents of three minors who had been removed from their parents due to neglect. They brought an action under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 against Yuba County Child Protective Services for conspiring to deprive them of family integrity and association with their grandchildren, and for placing the grandfather’s name in the State Child Abuse Index. The district court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the grandparents have no constitional right to visit grandchildren when they are dependents of the court and CPS (and the parents) believe that visitation should cease. The appellate court here affirmed. The grandparents established neither a substantive due process right to association, nor a liberty interest in visiting their grandchildren. Since they have no constitutional right which has been deprived, they have no claim against the County. The fact that the grandparents were de facto parents does not create a liberty interest; it merely gave them the right to appear in the proceeding, which was not denied. Further, the grandparents did not show the loss of a property or liberty interest in conjunction with injury to their reputation from placement of grandfather’s name on the Child Abuse Index, and therefore failed to satisfy the “stigma-plus” test required to support a 1983 action.