Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.
David Fights Goliath
October 11, 2009 permalink
When Carla Legates was pregnant, social workers told her to leave her husband or lose her child. She left her husband, but Oklahoma DHS took her baby anyway. With her new partner Ray Woodson she gave birth to two more babies, both taken shortly after birth. Both parents spent several months in jail on various charges. The new father fought back regaining custody of his two children in a jury trial. The couple is suing the state and the hospital for compensation. Lesson: If you live in a place that allows for jury trial in custody cases, you have some chance of slaying the child protection Goliath, even after they throw the proverbial book at you.
Published October 10, 2009 10:06 pm - Embattled father suing DHS, hospital over children's removal.
Father sues DHS, hospital following custody fight
Krystal J. Carman, Claremore Daily Progress, Oct. 11, 2009 —
A father who has been fighting for custody of his two children has won that right, and is now suing the county’s Department of Human Services and a local hospital.
Ray Woodson and his children’s mother Carla Legates have been battling DHS for nearly two years and now both mother and father have filed federal lawsuits against the state agency.
Their first child was removed in October 2007 at 2 months old. His sister was taken in August 2008 when she was only six hours old and still in the nursery at Claremore Regional Hospital.
Legates had been previously involved with DHS and the court system concerning custody of her first child who was only a few months old when he entered a foster home in 2005.
In May, Woodson won custody of the children after a 14-day jury trial, according to the filing. Now Woodson is claiming the state violated the HIPPA law and his civil rights.
The couple’s first child was born in Wichita, Kan., and was taken into custody Oct. 2, 2007, by Rogers County DHS after Legates returned for a court appearance concerning her first child and was asked where her newborn baby was located. She was arrested and placed in the county jail for not revealing the baby’s whereabouts and later charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice to which she pleaded guilty.
Authorities were able to learn where the baby and Woodson were located through recorded jail telephone conversations and subsequently seized the baby and took Woodson into custody for violating a child custody order. During court hearings throughout Woodson’s criminal case following his arrest, testimony revealed the child custody order was signed less than an hour before he was arrested. However, Woodson eventually pleaded guilty to the charge and spent several months in county jail.
During their battle for custody of their first child, Woodson and Legates gave birth to a second child in August 2008. But that child was taken into DHS custody straight from the hospital just six hours after birth. The state claimed the child was deprived, even though Woodson and Legates had not been given a chance to be parents to either of their children. In his filing, Woodson claims Claremore Regional Hospital violated the HIPPA law by providing medical information concerning his child to DHS.
The filing — which names Claremore Regional Hospital, DHS, Kila Bergdorff, Jessica Pruitt, Barbara Priest, Janie Vecsey, Kelly Gassaway-Oxford as defendants — states that even though there was a two-day adjudicatory hearing in December 2008 concerning the second child and “the child was found not deprived by the father,” DHS kept the child in custody for eight more months.
Woodson is seeking actual damages in excess of $10,000, punitive damages in excess of $10,000 and a reasonable amount of attorney fees.
In Legates’ federal suit, she is claiming her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were violated when her children were taken into state custody. The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to provide substantial due process such as parental and marriage rights, which includes holding hearings before a person’s property interests can be taken away.
The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to provide substantial due process such as parental and marriage rights, which includes holding hearings before a person’s property interests can be taken away.
The lawsuit also states that the reason for taking the children were based on the case of Legates’ first son, who was taken in 2005. At that time, according to Legates, she was married to the child’s father and was allegedly being abused. Her recollection of that case involves authorities telling her to divorce her then husband, as she was pregnant with her first child at the time, or “they would take my son. And then they took him anyway.”
In her suit, Legates is suing Rogers County DHS, former director Maggie Box and child welfare workers Bergdorf, Pruitt and Priest.
A settlement conference has been scheduled for Oct. 27, and according to a motion to strike the settlement conference filed by the defendants, Legates’ attorney filed a written settlement offer of $6.5 million. In their motion, the defendants stated the settlement demand, “involves no compromise and requires complete capitulation by the Defendants,” and that it is “a clear indication that the Plaintiff is not likely to participate in good faith in settlement discussions.”
Source: Claremore Daily Progress