Sims v. State Department of Public Welfare

438 F. Supp. 1179 (1977)

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Sims v. State Department of Public Welfare

United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
438 F. Supp. 1179 (1977)

Facts

Portions of the Texas Family Code addressed the investigation and prosecution of child abuse. One of the provisions concerned the state’s preliminary investigative powers into child-abuse allegations before the state sought judicial relief. During the preliminary investigation, the statute permitted the state to visit the alleged victim’s home, interview the alleged victim, and conduct psychological and physical examinations of the alleged victim. If necessary, a trial court was required to order families to comply with the visit, interview, and examinations, and the state could obtain the order without notice to the families and without a showing that the relief sought was necessary. The state used the information that it gathered as a basis for further action concerning the alleged abuse. The statute did not require the state to disclose the information or subsequent reports to suspected abusers. Finally, the statute led to the implementation of the Child Abuse and Neglect Report and Inquiry System (CANRIS), which was intended to facilitate the exchange of child-abuse information between agencies and states. When a report of child abuse was filed, the information from the report was stored in the CANRIS, labeling the parents of the alleged victim as “perpetrators.” If an investigator found evidence that “proved” that abuse occurred, the report was classified as “validated,” but that conclusion was not subject to judicial review. The constitutionality of the preceding provisions was challenged in court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Singleton, J.)

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