Supreme Court to consider removal procedures for child abuse database News
Supreme Court to consider removal procedures for child abuse database

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in two cases. In County of Los Angeles v. Humphries [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will be asked to address whether a plaintiff must show that a constitutional violation by a public entity was the result of a policy, custom, or practice of that entity before declaratory relief can be granted. The case arose after two parents were unable to have their names removed from California's Child Abuse Central Index [official materials], a database that collects reports of child abuse, after the charges against them were dismissed. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found [opinion, PDF] that the inability to remove "factually innocent" suspects from the database violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment and subsequently awarded $652,000 in attorneys' fees for the appeal. The county challenges the Ninth Circuit's ruling on the grounds that the couple failed to show that the county had adopted a policy or practice that resulted in the constitutional violation, as required by Monell v. Department of Social Services [opinion text] and that their failure to do so meant that they were not "prevailing parties" for the purposes of fee awards under 42 USC § 1988 [text].

In Harrington v. Richter [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will consider whether a defense counsel's reliance on cross-examination in lieu of forensic evidence violates the client's Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Granting federal habeas corpus review, the Ninth Circuit found [opinion, PDF] in an en banc rehearing that Richter's counsel "failed to undertake the most elementary task that a responsible defense attorney would perform" by not presenting forensic analysis of a blood pool found at the scene of a murder Richter is accused of committing. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, the California Supreme Court, the California Court of Appeals, and the US District Court for the Eastern District of California had all previously rejected the application.