Jacqueline T. v. Alameda County Child Protective Services (2007) 155 Cal.App.4th 456
Plaintiff and her three minor children sued Alameda County Child Protective Services claiming that social workers negligently investigated reports of sexual abuse concerning the minor plaintiffs. Plaintiffs alleged that the minor children suffered continuing abuse that would have been prevented had county social workers properly performed their duties.
The county social workers moved for summary judgment based on statutory immunities contained in the California Government Code. The superior court initially denied summary judgment, but reversed its decision after the social workers pursued a successful alternative writ of mandate from the First District Court of Appeal. Plaintiffs’ subsequent appeal resulted in a 30-page published opinion by the First District Court of Appeal affirming the superior court’s grant of summary judgment. The published opinion serves to strengthen the legal precedent applying governmental immunity to protect the difficult discretionary decisions made by social workers investigating reports of child abuse.
Johannes v. Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Ninth Circuit case no. 06-16739; Northern District case no. C 04-458MHP (PR) Slip Copy, 2008 WL 740305 (9th Cir. 2008) (appellate opinion) 2006 WL 2504400 (N.D. Ca. 2006) (trial court opinion)
Plaintiff, a former attorney, was convicted of sexual abuse of minors and served a state prison sentence. After his release, he was involuntarily detained at Atascadero State Hospital under California Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 6600-6609.3 pending his adjudication as a sexually violent predator.
During this time, plaintiff was temporarily transferred to Santa Rita Jail while he served as a witness in a civil case pending in Alameda County. While in county custody, plaintiff was strip searched upon his arrival at the jail and upon his return from several trips to court. The strip searches were performed in accordance with Alameda County Sheriff’s Office’s policy requiring visual strip searches of all inmates who had been in direct contact with other inmates, or outside of the secured facility, upon their return to the facility or housing unit. Plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of the County and Sheriff’s policy as applied to him.
Plaintiff argued that his status as a civil detainee required his exemption from the strip search policy. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis that jail security concerns outweighed plaintiff’s privacy interests and that the policy was consistent with constitutional standards.
Judge Marilyn Patel granted the county’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the jail’s demonstrated security concerns supported the strip searches in this case. On appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the decision was affirmed.