In Marshall v. County of San Diego, published July 22, 2015, the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 1, affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant county and county social workers in a lawsuit brought by a foster parent under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 alleging violation of her due process rights. The foster parent alleged that the social workers violated her due process rights by not giving her notice of an ex parte hearing to end the foster placement, by not giving her a report supporting the removal until the day of a hearing on her objection to the removal, and by purportedly making false and misleading statements to the court in the hearing. She also alleged that a county policy was the moving force behind the constitutional violations. She had obtained an appellate court writ in the placement proceeding vacating the removal decision based on lack of sufficient notice, and directing that she be provided a new hearing. At the new hearing, the court declined to remove the child from his new foster placement.
The appellate court ruled that the social workers were entitled to qualified immunity regarding the lack of proper notice. The facts showed that the plaintiff had notice (verbal notice that complied with statute) and an opportunity to respond (the hearing on the objection) before the child was removed. The court also affirmed summary adjudication of the claim that the social workers made misrepresentations to the court. Although her right not to have the placement terminated by judicial misrepresentations was clearly established, the undisputed facts showed no material judicial misrepresentations or misleading statements. The county was also entitled to summary judgment, because there was no evidence of an unconstitutional county policy that caused her a deprivation of constitutional rights.