Lee Davis: 6th Circuit Hears TN Case About 13-Year-Old Child Labeled Child Abuser By DCS

Thursday, February 21, 2013
Lee Davis
Lee Davis

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided a case out of Tennessee involving a 13-year-old labeled a child abuser DCS but this label is vehemently contested by his parents.

The case, Wright v. O'Day, concerning a young boy known as D.W., was brought by the child’s mother who sued the Governor of Tennessee and the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services claiming that they violated the boy’s due process rights by including him on the state’s child abuse registry without first offering him an administrative hearing to challenge the listing.

The issue arose after D.

W. was accused by another child, L.M., of touching his penis and sticking his finger in L.M.’s butt. D.W. denied the allegations during an interview with Children’s Services, but was later told that he would be indicated as a perpetrator of child abuse in the state’s official registry.
D.W. and his mother asked for a formal review of their case, but were never told what evidence had been collected against the boy. He was also denied an administrative hearing because the Children’s Services office claimed the designation would not affect his employment. D.W. pointed out that the designation would not disappear when he turned 18, but would instead follow him for life.

When the case was brought before a lower court, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that any claim based on the child abuser designation’s effect on D.W.’s employment did not present a justiciable case or controversy because D.W.’s claim of injury was speculative.

The district court agreed with the Commissioner and decided to dismiss the case, saying that the harm caused by the designation was in the future and was thus not justiciable.

The Sixth Circuit disagreed, holding that the designation as a child abuser is essentially permanent and that this amounts to a concrete injury. Given this injury, the child should not have to wait until he is denied an employment opportunity to bring the challenge. The Sixth Circuit made clear that because the classification as a child abuser leads to actual injury, D.W. has standing to challenge the classification.

To read the full opinion, click here.

---

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


Supreme Court Orders Trial Court To Reconsider Subpoenas In Post-Conviction Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that a post-conviction petitioner may be entitled to subpoena his co-defendants as witnesses, but only if he can first demonstrate that the co-defendants are competent witnesses whose testimony is relevant to his claims. In 2009, Quantel Taylor pled guilty to charges of attempted first degree murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated ... (click for more)

Mark Making And Glass House Collective Host Ribbon Cutting

Mark Making and Glass House Collective, in partnership with Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, will host a Glass Street ribbon cutting on Friday, Sept. 5, at 5:30 p.m. to celebrate their expanded presence in East Chattanooga. The ribbon cutting will be held at the 2500 block of Glass Street. Mark Making has relocated to their new East Chattanooga home after operating out ... (click for more)

Jury Finds In Favor Of Texas Sheriff In Suit Brought By Chattanooga Photographer

A Federal Court jury on Friday found in favor of a Texas sheriff and his chief deputy who had been sued by a Chattanooga photographer. The jury in the courtroom of Judge Curtis Collier awarded no damages to Donna Johnson. In his closing argument after a two-week civil trial, attorney John Anderson said, "This is about the Fourth Amendment." Attorney Anderson represented Ms. ... (click for more)

Justin Wilkins Selected As Deputy Chief Of Staff For Mayor Berke

Native Chattanoogan Justin Wilkins will serve as Mayor Andy Berke's deputy chief of staff, it was announced Friday. Mr. Wilkins has spent the last several years serving as the Tennessee state director for multiple advocacy and electoral organizations, including Organizing for America and Organizing for Action. Prior to that, he worked as project manager at Profit Plans LLC ... (click for more)

Mackey Should Be Thankful For The State Troopers On Highway 153

This is in response to a statement made by Warren Mackey at the commission meeting.  His question was to the mayor regarding the state troopers writing tickets on Highway 153, saying they were on a rampage.   It is apparent that Mr. Mackey doesn’t travel this highway.  His only concern was that the ticket money was going into state funds and not into county funds. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Must-Read For Parents

If you have a child or if you love one, what you are about to read could be one of the most important lessons in your life. I have a great friend in Dallas – Sandy Pohfal – who regularly shares stories with me that are moving, inspirational or important. This is all three. This story was written by a celebrated author, Christie Craig. She has written hundreds of articles for ... (click for more)