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.)


Chattanooga Chamber Presents Business Calendar For March 28-31

TUES/28 Reality Check at Ivy Academy 9:45-11 a.m. Mile Straight Baptist Church: 8448 Springfield Rd. Reality Check teaches 9th graders budgeting and emphasizes the connection between education and income by having roleplay as heads of household with a set budget. To volunteer for this Chattanooga Chamber career readiness program, contact Cathy Humble at  423.763.4321 ... (click for more)

TN Supreme Court Holds That Indigent Prisoner's Case Was Properly Dismissed

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that an indigent prisoner’s case was properly dismissed pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812 when the prisoner had outstanding unpaid court costs from prior litigation.  Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812 authorizes the rejection of certain new claims in court from an indigent inmate who has unpaid fees, taxes, ... (click for more)

Storm Costs EPB $2.5 Million; Smart Grid Helped Ease The Pain

Tuesday night's fierce storm cost EPB an estimated $2.5 million, President David Wade said Friday. He said the city utility will have to bear all the cost - unlike when it got federal aid after spending $18 million following tornadoes that raked the Chattanooga area in 2012. Mr. Wade said EPB's Smart Grid helped ease the pain, bringing back online about 27,000 affected customers ... (click for more)

1 Killed, 1 Injured In Brainerd Shooting

One person was killed and a second person injured in a shooting in Brainerd on Thursday night. The call was to 3301 Pinewood Ave. at 7:05 p.m. It was reported that a silver vehicle was seen leaving the scene. One of the persons shot, 23-year-old Antonio Baldwin, died during surgery. The injury to William Daniel, 21, is not life-threatening. Police said both of the ... (click for more)

Slaxxon Regret

Back in the seventies my three oldest brothers had a buddy named Steve Slack. “Slack” was a star soccer player at Baylor and he grew up on Lookout Mountain, which is where I grew up. He and Jimmy, Henry and Bill went to the University of Virginia where they were roommates in an old, beat up house that was painted pink. Naturally, the place became known as the “Pink Palace” but lest ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Scottsboro Boys

There is a good-sized train tunnel that runs under the northern tip of Lookout Mountain, right next to Cummings Highway. It was inside that tunnel on this very weekend 86 years ago, that the worst tragedy in the fabled history of the South was born. This was during the tight grip of the Depression and about two dozen hobos had jumped the train from the time it left Southern Railway's ... (click for more)