Need For A Search Warrant Trips Social Workers

Ohio authorities not aware of Fourth Amendment protections

Erie County, OH, A home schooling family has settled its case against Erie County social workers and Vermilion police for the coerced entry into the family’s home on Feb. 21, 2001.


Courts have settled this key issue in other jurisdictions, and now its settled in this jurisdiction.  Social workers cannot enter a home, willy-nilly, without a warrant,” said Gary McCaleb, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, the national legal organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona, that supported the case.

Paul and Linda Walsh filed a lawsuit after police and caseworkers entered their home without a warrant and without permission.  The social workers said they were acting on an anonymous tip about unspecified hazards in the home, and claimed they had a right to enter the home without a warrant.

The social workers threatened the family, saying that if they were not allowed in the home they would take the children away from the parents.  In papers filed with the court, the Walshes said that a social worker even blocked their driveway with her car when the family tried to leave to attend a church function that evening.

The social worker summoned police, who frisked Mr. Walsh and threatened to arrest him on charges of obstructing official business if he did not allow the caseworkers into the home.  Walsh said that he then allowed the workers to enter the home rather than risk being jailed.

The caseworkers found nothing in the home that constituted an immediate hazard to the family.

Instead of tolerating this official abuse, the Walshes chose to sue the caseworkers, the Erie County Department of Job and Family Services, the Erie County Board of Commissioners, the City of Vermilion, Ohio; and three Vermilion police officers.

Defendants told the court that the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against illegal searches and seizures do not apply to them in such circumstances.  They asked the court to throw the case out, but the court refused.   The court said the facts supported the Walshes claims against the defendants for unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as for false imprisonment, assault, battery, and infliction of emotional distress.

In a forceful opinion, US District Judge James G. Carr wrote: Despite the Defendants exaggerated view of their powers, the Fourth Amendment applies to them, as it does to all other officers and agents of the state whose requests to enter, however benign or well-intentioned, are met by a closed door.  There is…no social worker exception to the strictures of the Fourth Amendment.  …Any agency that expects to send its employees routinely into private homes has a fundamental obligation to ensure that those employees understand the constitutional limits on their authority.

The court stated that because the Walshes refused consent, and because the anonymous complaint did not supply persuasive evidence of an emergency, the caseworkers had no option but to either leave the [Walshes] alone and in peace or seek a search warrant.

The court further ruled that the police did not have probable cause to detain, frisk, and threaten to arrest Walsh, since he was not breaking any law but merely asserting his “fundamental right to be left alone.

Kurt D. Anderson, a partner with the Elyria firm of Fauver, Keyse-Walker & Donovan, represents the Walshes.  Anderson, a graduate of Alliance Defense Fund’s second National Litigation Academy, said the training gave him the background to help the Walshes when the opportunity arose.

ADF’s training and resources really helped us confront an issue that, unfortunately, had apparently never been addressed in Ohio before, Anderson said.  As far as we could tell, nobody in Ohio had ever challenged a caseworker’s home inspection for failure to get a warrant. As a home schooling parent myself, I really took the Walshes situation to heart.  I admire them for their courage to stand up for their rights, but it’s a crying shame that it would even have to come to that.  Its just a reminder that we have to be vigilant and assertive about protecting our rights.  They can be trampled on even by well-meaning but uninformed government agents.

Anderson expects that as a result of the Walsh case, training policies will be revised for social workers not just in Erie County, but across the state of Ohio.  The caseworkers in the Walsh case admitted they had never been taught anything about the Fourth Amendment or search warrants.   The feedback I’m getting is that agencies across the state have gotten a wake-up call on this issue.

Anderson declined to reveal the specific amount of the settlement, which was not stated in the court record.

For more information about home schooling and the law, please contact the Home School Legal Defense Association, an ally of the Alliance Defense Fund.  HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville can be reached at (540) 338-5600.

The Alliance Defense Fund is a servant organization serving people of faith.   The Alliance Defense Fund provides strategy, training, and funding in the legal battle for religious liberty, sanctity of life, and traditional family values.

http://www.landrights.com/Search%20Warrant.htm

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7 comments to Need For A Search Warrant Trips Social Workers

  • Michelle

    This was a lot like what my husband and I went through when CPS and PD showed up at our home and Midnight in July 2010! We were woken up and threatened jail time if we didn’t cooperate! We told them that they needed a search warrant and that our son was sleeping and that they could come back tomorrow to see him outside the house. The the CPS worker called someone and she told the officer that they got the approval to “pull him” they stole him in the middle of the night and took him to the ER where NOTHING was found on him just like there was NOTHING found on our 1st son that they took. We had a hearing that Monday and the CPS worker made up all kinds of lies. Having an EMS background I knew how to prove she was lying and went to the dispatch center and requested a copy of the call log for the night of the incident. They had to black out who called and telephone numbers but that isn’t what I was looking for. I wanted the time the officer was contacted, the time they showed up at my home and what time they left. CPS argued that they had confronted my overly aggressive husband and argued with him for over an hour, that PD had to step in and another officer was called in to control him. Once we got the call log they were at our home for 36minutes and there was a 2nd officer that was dispatched as they were leaving! While I was getting the call log I also got a copy of the police report which said NOTHING about my husband being aggressive (because he wasn’t) and nothing about having to protect the worker. With those 2 pieces of evidence we blew the caseworkers story out of the water. We fought for a week and had our 2nd son returned. Needless to say we stirred things up at DHS and our case was talked about everywhere. Our attorney was AWESOME and I HIGHLY recommend him to anyone in need of good council! He was not cheap but he was worth every penny! You have to stay strong and not back down! Fightcps.com is a great informational sight and you do NOT have to talk to these people and NEVER let them in to your home! Make them do the work, you can threaten me with a search warrant but unless you have hard proof (evidence) then it WON”T be granted! Stay strong and FIGHT for your kids!

  • abbi

    oh they knew, they just get trained to manipulate parents and bully them so they can take their kids. good social workers will investigate and use removal as a last resort, the ones that corrupt easy, bully parents and try to get in the house so they can collect evidence to get a court order to take them or if they manipulate the parents well enough to get a negative/angry/violent response they will take them on an emergency basis..

    its like allowing the police to search your car and they find circumstantial evidence to make you look like a terrorist. if they have to ask, they don’t have a warrant and they have no right. parents reading this, do not be fooled.

    • randy

      Abbi thanks for your comment. We need to educate ourselves on the laws and our rights. Social workers will abuse their power and manipulate the system to their advantage.

  • abbi

    michelle, file complaints to her agency, and send duplicates to the attorney general’s office along with their response especially if the agency finds no fault. collect all evidence and record everything. she will be investigated, perjury is a criminal act as well as falsifying documents. Do not relent.

    then lawsuit.

  • Lynn

    I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THESE PEOPLE WORK! MY GRANDDAUGHTER, CRYSTAL, WAS STOLEN FROM THESE PEOPLE! THEY VIOLATED EVERY RIGHT THAT I HAD! ATTORNEY? PFFFFF. HAVEN’T DONE CRAP, YET! IT’S BEEN OVER 2 YEARS SINCE CRYSTAL WAS STOLEN! I WILL NEVER STOP FIGHTING! NOT EVER!! THAT WORKER & AGENCY LIED, DECEIVED, DESTROYED, ETC.. OUR LIVES! THEY WILL NOT GET AWAY WITH THIS!! EVERY DOG HAS IT’S DAY. THEIR DAY IS COMING! I HATE USING THAT PHRASE. I LOVE ANIMALS BUT, HATE THEM PPL! GOD BLESS. ~ GOOD~LUCK TO ALL! STAND STRONG TOGETHER!

  • Lynn

    We are from Springfield, Massachusetts….

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