$60K Award Overturned for Registry Error

December 2, 2010

The Associated Press reports a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court that a couple acquitted of child abuse but still listed in California’s Child Abuse Central Index is not entitled to payment by Los Angeles County for their attorney fees. The couple was arrested nine years ago after their daughter accused them of abuse; state courts proved the allegations were false. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco subsequently determined the Index to be unconstitutional in not enabling innocent people to clear their names, and ordered LA County to pay the couple $60,000 for legal fees.

The county argued that it is not liable, as it did not violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, according to a 1978 Supreme Court decision that also applies to claims against municipalities for prospective relief and claims for damages. The Child Abuse Central Index, says the county, is a state policy. The plaintiffs’ lawyer contends that the “finding of a constitutional violation remains in full force” and “that issue will be litigated before the district court.”