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Damages Violations Civil Rights

Parents Sue City For $22M
Newsday - Long Island, N.Y.
Author: By M.P. McQueen.Date:   Jan 28, 1992
Parents who charge that city social workers illegally seized their children sued the Human Resources Administration and its chief, Barbara Sabol, in federal court yesterday for more than $22 million.
The two civil rights lawsuits, filed by Manhattan family law attorney
Bruce A. Young, charge that HRA has "a consistent pattern" of violating parents' rights.
Robert Devoe and Lillian Kopf of West 122nd Street in Manhattan are asking for $12 million in damages for "extreme anxiety, emotional trauma, fear and depression" on behalf of their 2-year-old daughter, Merceda, who they claim was taken from them by social workers in
November, 1990, without a court order or the required hearing, violating their civil rights. Also named as defendants in the suit are the caseworkers who took the child, the Brookwood Child Care corporation in Brooklyn and a woman who provided foster care during
the month the child was in the city's custody. In court papers, the couple charges that Merceda suffered scabies,
diaper rash, eczema and other rashes while she was in foster care and
required medical treatment when she was released to her parents by order of Family Court Judge Michael Gage on Dec. 6, 1990. The parents say the HRA and the Child Welfare Administration never charged them with child neglect or sought court approval for removing the child from her home.
In the other lawsuit, Rhonda Smith, of Daly Avenue in the Bronx, asks for a jury trial and $10-million damages from the HRA for taking her 9-year-old son, Naquan, on Dec. 10, 1990. Smith claims that a caseworker from Child Welfare's Brooklyn office failed to seek judicial approval for a voluntary placement agreement for nine months, instead of within the legally required 30 days. Smith charges the voluntary agreement was actually coerced. In November, 1991, a family court judge ordered Naquan returned to his home. Smith charges that the eleven-month separation caused traumatized her and
her son. Earl Weber, a spokesman for the Human Resources Administration, said lawyers for the agency had not yet received copies of the lawsuits and
were unable to comment on them. Neither the Devoe nor the Smith
families could be contacted yesterday.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.


 Smith] claims that a caseworker from Child Welfare's Brooklyn
office failed to seek judicial approval for a voluntary placement
agreement for nine months, instead of within the legally required 30
days. Smith charges the voluntary agreement was actually coerced. In
November, 1991, a family court judge ordered [Naquan] returned to his
home. Smith charges that the eleven-month separation caused
traumatized her and her son.
Mom Can Sue City Judge OKs suit claiming DA's abuse charge was false
Newsday - Long Island,
Author: By Patricia Cohen.
Date:   Dec 8, 1993
In a case that could have far-reaching effects on the way the city handles child sex-abuse incidents, a federal judge gave the green light to a $7-million lawsuit that charges the Manhattan district attorney's office with falsely accusing a mother of molesting her son. Diane Hill was seven months pregnant when she was thrown in jail in 1991 on the basis of a videotape showing her 5-year-old son naming her
as his abuser.
What former Assistant District Attorney Richard Adago didn't tell the
grand jury that indicted her, however, was that in an earlier videotape her son said someone else sexually abused him with a piece of wood.
After Hill spent 8 1/2 months at Rikers Island, giving birth in jail and having her two other sons taken from her, all charges were dropped.
Hill is now suing Adago, the other city employees involved and the city itself for $7 million, charging an improper police investigation, a conspiracy to fabricate evidence and a "malicious prosecution."
"One of the key issues is that the city can be liable for not properly training its DAs, its video technicians, and a social worker who asked suggestive, coercive type of questions to the boy," said Hill's
attorney, Bruce Young.
Last week, Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge John Sprizzo, in ruling from the bench, said Hill could go ahead with her suit and gather information on how attorneys, police and social workers are trained and supervised in these kinds of cases. Generally, the only way that a city can be held liable for the actions of its employees is if one can show that there are systemic flaws. "The judge is allowing discovery to go forward on whether or not the training and supervision of these type of persons is adequate,"Young explained, "It's not just Diane Hill, but other persons can routinely have their rights violated by not training these people to act properly on a regular basis." City attorney Amy Carron-Day disagreed that Sprizzo's ruling gave credence to Hill's complaint.
"It is very difficult to have a case like this dismissed on the pleadings," she said. "The fact that the judge denied that motion was not a surprise to us."
Adago's attorney, Assistant District Attorney David Mudd, said, "The
allegations of the complaint are frivolous."
Ironically, it was Hill's initial call to the police that set the prosecution against her in motion. Her first son has been in a foster home where she suspected he had
been burned, bruised and was learning "sexualized behavior." Although he had been removed from that home three months earlier, he complained that either that foster father or his son had stuck wood into his rectum.
After she contacted a social worker and the police, she soon found herself the subject of the investigation.
In the first videotape made by Adago, the 5-year old named the foster father and son as his abusers, according to court papers. Adago turned off the tape at that point. Only later, at the insistent coaching of Adago and a social worker,
according to court papers, did he name his own mother. Paul Shechtman, counsel to the Manhattan district attorney, said two of the cardinal rules of the office are to turn over any possibly
exculpatory evidence to the defense and to tred carefully with child witnesses.
"The general rule is that absent corroboration or medical evidence, we
are not in the business of prosecuting cases that are based just on the word of a preschool child." Hill declined a request for an interview, according to her lawyer.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.
 Abstract (Document Summary)
[Diane Hill] is now suing [Richard Adago], the other city employees involved and the city itself for $7 million, charging an improper police investigation, a conspiracy to fabricate evidence and a
"malicious prosecution." "One of the key issues is that the city can be liable for not properly training its DAs, its video technicians, and a social worker who asked suggestive, coercive type of questions to the boy," said Hill's
attorney, Bruce Young.
Last week, Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge John Sprizzo, in ruling from the bench, said Hill could go ahead with her suit and gather information on how attorneys, police and social workers are trained and supervised in these kinds of cases.

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