A federal appellate court ruled late last week that Los Angeles County did not violate a man’s due process and privacy rights when it retained a closely held record of unfounded allegations of child sexual abuse against him – without providing him notice or an opportunity to challenge the allegations.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous 3-0 ruling, agreed with a lower court judge on Friday that the plaintiff, James Endy, failed to show that he suffered any harm as a result of the accusations against him being included in the database. The court summarily dismissed the case.
Endy had claimed that his inclusion in the California child welfare system’s case management system had illegally placed a “stigma” on him that deprived him of career advancement opportunities with his employer, the California Department of Transportation. Endy also claimed that including the record of the 2014 allegations cost him any chance of fostering or adopting a child and barred him from visiting his daughter’s school.
In her opinion, Judge Consuelo Callahan, a 2003 appointee of President George W. Bush, acknowledged that child abuse reports are “far more damning to a person’s reputation in our society than perhaps any other kind of accusation.” But the fact that the charges were plainly labeled in the state’s case management system as unfounded, as determined by a Los Angeles County judge, is not by itself an injustice, Callahan wrote.
Further, the database that was in question is primarily used by child welfare investigators.
While there is a database that is somewhat more public and thus requires notice to those whose names appear in it, Endy’s case does not appear in that one, Callahan noted.
In addition, Callahan held that Endy failed to show that anyone who was not entitled to see the unfounded information did so, including Caltrans, his child’s school and any person who could stop him from adopting or fostering a child.
“He provides no evidence that his information has been publicly disseminated or disclosed,” Callahan held.
Rather, Callahan wrote, Endy failed “to present a triable issue that any of these consequences was a result of his inclusion” in the database, known as CWS/CMS.
“Understandably, Endy is troubled by the knowledge that the County continues to keep an internal record of prior child abuse allegations made against him, even though these allegations were dismissed by a court of law,” Callahan wrote. “The County, however, has a strong interest in maintaining all reports of suspected child abuse in CWS/CMS–even those that result in ‘unfounded’ dispositions–because doing so helps its child welfare and law enforcement agencies protect children from abuse and neglect.”