Litigants or parties representing themselves in court without the assistance of an attorney are known as pro se litigants. “Pro se” is Latin for “in one's own behalf.” The right to appear pro se in a civil case in federal court is defined by statute 28 U.S.C.
Pro se legal representation comes from Latin pro se, meaning "for oneself" or "on behalf of themselves", which in modern law means to argue on one's own behalf in a legal proceeding as a defendant or plaintiff in civil cases or a defendant in criminal cases. This status is sometimes known as propria persona. In England and Wales the comparable status is that of "litigant in person".
According to the National Center for State Courts in the United States, as of 2006 pro se litigants had become more common in both state courts and federal courts.
Estimates of the pro se rate of family law overall averaged 67% in California, 73% in Florida's large counties, and 70% in some Wisconsin counties. In San Diego, for example, the number of divorce filings involving at least one pro se litigant rose from 46% in 1992 to 77% in 2000, in Florida from 66% in 1999 to 73% in 2001. California reports in 2001 that over 50% of family matters filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants.
In the U.S. Federal Court system for the year 2013 approximately 27% of civil actions, 92% of prisoner petitions and 11% of non-prisoner petitions were filed by pro se litigants.
Defendants in political trials tend to participate in the proceedings more than defendants in non-political cases, as they may have greater ability to depart from courtroom norms to speak to political and moral issues.
The Supreme Court noted that "in the federal courts, the right of self-representation has been protected by statute since the beginnings of our Nation.
Section 35 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73, 92, enacted by the First Congress and signed by President Washington one day before the Sixth Amendment was proposed, provided that 'in all the courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally or by the assistance of counsel.'"
In 2011, the Federal Judicial Conference surveyed federal court clerks offices regarding pro se issues. They found that only 17 of 62 responding judges report that discovery is taken in most non prisoner pro se cases and only 13 reported that discovery is taken in most prisoner pro se cases.
In the same survey, 37% of judges found that most pro ses had problems examining witnesses, while 30% found that pro ses had no or few problems examining witnesses. 53% found that represented parties sometimes or frequently take advantage of pro se parties.
Only 5% reported problems of pro ses behaving inappropriately at hearings. Respondents to the FJC study did not report any orders against non prisoner pro se litigation. Pro se litigants may have a lower chance of success. The Louisiana Court of Appeals tracks the results of pro se appeals against represented appeals. In 2000, 7% of writs in civil appeals submitted to the court pro se were granted, compared to 46% of writs submitted by counsel. In criminal cases the ratio is closer – 34% of pro se writs were granted, compared with 45% of writs submitted by counsel.
There is evidence that self-representation is common in civil cases:
In New Hampshire one party is pro se in 85% of all civil cases in the district court and 48% of all civil cases in the superior court in 2004.
In probate court, both sides are unrepresented by lawyers in 38% of cases.
In superior court domestic relations cases, almost 70% of cases have one pro se party, while in district court domestic violence cases, 97% of the cases have one pro se party.
In California, one party appeared pro se in 2/3 of all domestic relations cases and in 40% of all child custody cases betwean 1991-95. California reports in 2001 that over 50% of the filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants.
Urban courts report that approximately 80% of the new divorce filings are filed pro se.
In Chicago in 1994, 30% of general civil actions filed for less than $10,000 of damages were filed pro se. Landlord tenant actions were filed pro se 28% of the time.
Utah Judicial Council reports that in 2006 for divorce cases, 49 percent of petitioners and 81 percent of respondents are self-represented. For small-claims cases, 99 percent of petitioners and 99 percent of respondents are self-represented.
The rate of non-attorney filings in bankruptcy courts by debtors, according to University of Illinois Law School's Professor Robert Lawless was 13.8% for chapter 13 cases, and 10.1% for chapter 7 cases.
The rate was as high as 30% to 45% for major urban areas, such as California and New York city. US Bankruptcy Court of Arizona reported 23.14% cases filed pro se in October 2011, up from 20.61% a year before.
There are some notable records of pro se litigants winning large amounts as plaintiffs including Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper won more than $10 million from Ford for patent infringement and Dr. Julio Perez (District of Southern New York 10-cv-08278) won approximately $5 million in a federal jury trial from Progenics Pharmaceuticals for wrongful termination as a result of whistleblowing.
According to Utah Judicial Council report of 2006, 80 percent of self-represented people coming to the district court clerk's office seek additional help before coming to the courthouse. About 60 percent used the court's Web site, 19 percent sought help from a friend or relative, 11 percent from the court clerk, and 7 percent went to the library.
In the justice courts, 59 percent sought no help. Many pro se resources come from these sources: local courts, which may offer limited self-help assistance; public interest groups, such as the American Bar Association, which sponsors reform and promotes resources for self-help, and commercial services, which sell pre-made forms allowing self-represented parties to have formally correct documents.
For example, the Self-Represented Litigation Network (SRLN) is an organization whose web site, srln.org, is dedicated to issues related to self-represented litigation and offers a curated resource library for legal professionals (courts, lawyers, and allies) engaged in pro se litigation. The organization provides no assistance with particular complaints.
"Self-help" legal service providers must take care not to cross the line into giving advice, in order to avoid "unauthorized practice of law", which in the U.S. is the unlawful act of a non-lawyer practicing law.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has also been involved with issues related to self-representation.
In 2008, the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access was presented to the Chicago-Kent College of Law Center for Access to Justice & Technology for making justice more accessible to the public through the use of the Internet in teaching, legal practice and public access to the law. Their A2J Author Project is a software tool that empowers those from the courts, legal services programs and educational institutions to create guided interviews resulting in document assembly, electronic filing and data collection.
Viewers using A2J to go through a guided interview are led down a virtual pathway to the courthouse. As they answer simple questions about their legal issue, the technology then "translates" the answers to create, or assemble, the documents that are needed for filing with the court.
An ABA publication lists "organizations involved in pro se issues" as including (in addition to the ABA itself) the American Judicature Society, the National Center for State Courts, and the State Justice Institute.
Many federal courts publish procedural guides for pro se litigants and they've also published the Civil Rights complaint forms. Many state courts also publish procedural guides for pro se litigants and some states have organizations dedicated to delivering services to pro se litigants.
For instance, the Minnesota Bar Association has a "pro se implementation committee". United States federal courts created the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system to obtain case and docket information from the United States district courts, United States courts of appeals, and United States bankruptcy courts. The system, managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, allows lawyers and self-represented clients to obtain documents entered in the case much faster than regular mail. However, the system charges fees, which were the subject of a class action lawsuit ongoing as of 2019.
Freely accessible web search engines can assist pro se in finding court decisions that can be cited as an example or analogy to resolve similar questions of law or in searching specific state courts.
Google Scholar is the biggest database of full text state and federal courts decisions that can be accessed without charge.
In 2017, federal circuit court judge Richard Posner retired and founded a pro-bono group for helping pro se litigants, named the Posner Center of Justice for Pro Se's.
Resources to sue Arizona DCS for parents as pro se litigants.
Average parents who self-represent or are currently going it alone without an attorney, in cases ranging from the common to the extraordinary involving the Arizona Department of Child Safety, Arizona DCS
"Section 1983 Litigation" refers to lawsuits brought under Section 1983 (Civil action for deprivation of rights) of Title 42 of the United States Code (42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 provides an individual the right to sue state government employees and others acting "under color of state law" for civil rights violations. Section 1983 does not provide civil rights; it is a means to enforce civil rights that already exist.
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.
Section 242 of Title 18 makes it a crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
For the purpose of Section 242, acts under "color of law" include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within their lawful authority, but also acts done beyond the bounds of that official's lawful authority, if the acts are done while the official is purporting to or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties.
Persons acting under color of law within the meaning of this statute include police officers, prisons guards and other law enforcement officials, as well as judges, care providers in public health facilities, and others who are acting as public officials. It is not necessary that the crime be motivated by animus toward the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin of the victim.
Plaintiffs can bring Section 1983 actions against defendants in their official capacity or in their individual capacity. Defendants sued in their official capacity will generally be immune from suits for money damages under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, but that immunity will not necessarily bar a suit seeking injunctive or declaratory relief. The Eleventh Amendment will not bar a Section 1983 suit for money damages against an official acting in his or her individual capacity, but officials may be able to raise qualified immunity defenses in those cases. Qualified immunity bars recovery from officials to the extent that their conduct did not violate clearly established rights of which a reasonable person would have been aware.
In order to keep your § 1983 claim alive in federal court, you need to "sue the right people," that is name the correct defendants. If you do not name the right defendants, even the best case may well be dismissed or delayed for a long time. Therefore, it is important to get the defendants as right as possible the first time.
Suing Only Those Causing The Wrong. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 cases allows a suit against any public employee who "subjects, or causes to be subjected" someone to a deprivation of federal constitutional rights. The Supreme Court has said that § 1983's language means that only those who actually cause the loss of constitutional rights can be required to pay money for the loss. Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).
The Eleventh Amendment prevents federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over state defendants--the federal court will not even hear the case if a state is the defendant. A state may not be sued in federal court by its own citizen or a citizen of another state, unless the state consents to jurisdiction. [Hans v. La., 134 U.S. 1 (1890)] Consent to the jurisdiction of the federal court may be manifested by the state voluntarily appearing in the court to defend itself on the merits of the case. [Gunter v. A. Coast Line R.R., 200 U.S. 273, 284 (1906)] Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to suits filed against the state in state courts and before federal administrative agencies. [Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999); Fed. Mar. Comm'n v. S.C. State Ports Auth., 535 U.S. 743 (2002)] Unless the state or the federal government creates an exception to the state's sovereign immunity, the state is immune from being sued without consent by any citizen in federal courts, state courts, or before federal administrative agencies.
In the U.S., people are guaranteed certain civil rights. In fact, if a state actor uses the legal system to deprive someone of their constitutional rights, the person may have a cause of action against them in the form of a civil rights lawsuit. More specifically, 42 U.S. Code, Section 1983 provides a civil cause of action against the person responsible.
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law.
To recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 a Petitioner must prove that a deprivation of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States was carried out by persons acting under color of law. Clark v. Boscher, 514 F.3d 107 (1st Cir. 2008). Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, parents have a fundamental constitutional liberty interest in the care, custody and control of their children, which amounts to a right to intimate association with the child. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000).
The Supreme Court has held that section 1983 creates "a species of tort liability" (Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 96 S. Ct. 984, 47 L. Ed. 2d 128 ).
Thus, the Supreme Court has held that, as in TORT LAW, a section 1983 plaintiff is entitled to receive only nominal damages, not to exceed one dollar, unless she or he can prove actual damages (Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 98 S. Ct. 1042, 55 L. Ed. 2d 252 ).
The jury is not entitled to place a monetary value on the constitutional rights of which the plaintiff was deprived (Memphis Community School District v. Stachura, 477 U.S. 299, 106 S. Ct. 2537, 91 L. Ed. 2d 249 ). Plaintiffs bear the burden, therefore, of presenting evidence of all expenses incurred, such as medical or psychiatric expenses, lost wages, and any damages due to pain and suffering, emotional distress, or damage to reputation. The plaintiff is also under a burden to mitigate his damages, and the award of damages may be reduced to the extent that the plaintiff failed to do so.
A section 1983 plaintiff is also required to prove that a federal right was violated and, similar to tort law, that the alleged violation was a proximate or legal cause of the damages that the plaintiff suffered (Arnold v. IBM Corp., 637 F.2d 1350 [9th Cir. 1981]). The Supreme Court has also held that, similar to tort law, PUNITIVE DAMAGES are available under section 1983 (Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 103 S. Ct. 1625, 75 L. Ed. 2d 632 ). A plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages if the jury finds that the defendant's conduct was reckless or callously indifferent to the federally protected rights of others or if the defendant was motivated by an evil intent.
The jury has the duty to assess the amount of punitive damages. Because the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer, such damages may be awarded even if the plaintiff cannot show actual damages (Basista v. Weir, 340 F.2d 74 [3d Cir. 1965]). As in tort law, the judge has the right to overturn a jury verdict if the jury awards what the judge considers to be excessive punitive damages. Courts also have broad power to grant equitable relief to plaintiffs in section 1983 actions.
Equitable remedies that courts have provided in the past include SCHOOL DESEGREGATION, restructuring of state mental health facilities, and restructuring of prisons (United States v. City of Yonkers, 96 F. 3d 600 [2nd Cir. 1996]; Wyatt v. Stickney, 344 F. Supp. 373 [M.D. Ala. 1972]; Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 98 S. Ct. 2565, 57 L. Ed. 2d 522 ).
When the court does provide equitable relief, it usually also provides ongoing evaluation and supervision of the enforcement of its orders. The Civil Rights Attorney's Fee Awards Act of 1976 (42 U.S.C.A. § 1988[b]) allows for the award of reasonable attorneys' fees to the prevailing party in cases brought under various federal civil rights laws, including section 1983. This provision applies whether or not COMPENSATORY DAMAGES were awarded. This provision also applies whether the plaintiff or the defendant prevails. However, if the defendant is the prevailing party, attorneys' fees have been held to be appropriate only where the lawsuit was "vexatious, frivolous, or brought to harass or embarrass the defendant" (Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 103 S. Ct. 1933, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40 ). In addition, section 1988 does not require that the attorneys' fees awarded be in proportion to the amount of damages recovered (City of Riverside v. Rivera, 477 U.S. 561, 106 S. Ct. 2686, 91 L. Ed. 2d 466 ).
Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure can lead to the adjustment of the amount of damages awarded by a jury in a section 1983 case. Enacted to encourage parties to settle their matters out of court, rule 68 provides that if the plaintiff rejected a settlement offer made by the defendant before trial that is better than the award the plaintiff ultimately received in the trial, the defendant is not liable for plaintiff's attorneys' fees incurred after the time the defendant made the settlement offer (Marek v. Chesny, 473 U.S. 1, 105 S. Ct. 3012, 87 L. Ed. 2d 1 ). Under rule 68, section 1983 plaintiffs need to carefully consider any settlement offers made by the defendants.
Pro se litigation by parents against the Arizona Department of Child Safety for civil rights violations under 42 U.S. CODE § 1983.
Civil rights litigation by parents against Arizona DCS.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. It applies to all state and local governments, their departments and agencies, and any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of state or local governments.
It clarifies the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, for public transportation systems that receive federal financial assistance, and extends coverage to all public entities that provide public transportation, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance. It establishes detailed standards for the operation of public transit systems, including commuter and intercity rail (e.g., AMTRAK).
This title outlines the administrative processes to be followed, including requirements for self-evaluation and planning; requirements for making reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination; architectural barriers to be identified; and the need for effective communication with people with hearing, vision and speech disabilities. This title is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Protecting the Rights of Parents and Prospective Parents with Disabilities: Technical Assistance for State and Local Child Welfare Agencies and Courts under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) are issuing this technical assistance to assist state and local child welfare agencies and courts to ensure that the welfare of children and families is protected in a manner that also protects the civil rights of parents and prospective parents1 with disabilities.
This guidance provides an overview of the issues and application of civil rights laws, answers to specific questions and implementation examples for child welfare agencies and courts, and resources to consult for additional information.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)2 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) protect parents and prospective parents with disabilities from unlawful discrimination in the administration of child welfare programs, activities, and services.4 At the same time, child welfare agencies and courts have the responsibility to protect children from abuse and neglect. The goals of child welfare and disability non-discrimination are mutually attainable and complementary. For example, ensuring that parents and prospective parents with disabilities have equal access to parenting opportunities increases the opportunities for children to be placed in safe and caring homes.
Need for This Technical Assistance Both the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and DOJ Civil Rights Division have received numerous complaints of discrimination from individuals with disabilities involved with the child welfare system, and the frequency of such complaints is rising. In the course of their civil rights enforcement activities, OCR and DOJ have found that child welfare agencies and courts vary in the extent to which they have implemented policies, practices, and procedures to prevent discrimination against parents and prospective parents with disabilities in the child welfare system.
According to a comprehensive 2012 report from the National Council on Disability (NCD), parents with disabilities are overly, and often inappropriately, referred to child welfare services, and once involved, are permanently separated at disproportionately high rates.6 In a review of research studies and other data, NCD concluded that among parents with disabilities, parents with intellectual disabilities and parents with psychiatric disabilities face the most discrimination based on stereotypes, lack of individualized assessments, and failure to provide needed services.
Parents who are blind or deaf also report significant discrimination in the custody process, as do parents with other physical disabilities. Individuals with disabilities seeking to become foster or adoptive parents also encounter bias and unnecessary barriers to foster care and adoption placements based on speculation and stereotypes about their parenting abilities. Discriminatory separation of parents from their children can result in long-term negative consequences to both parents and their children. In addition to the OCR and DOJ case where a mother and daughter were deprived of the opportunity for maternal/child bonding for two years, the National Council on Disability report is replete with case studies with similar consequences.
For example, a child welfare agency removed a newborn for 57 days from a couple because of assumptions and stereotypes about their blindness, undermining precious moments for the baby and parents that can never be replaced. Similarly, after a child welfare agency removed a three-year-old from his grandmother because she had arthritis and a mobility disability, the toddler developed behavioral issues and progressively detached from his grandmother, though he had had no such experiences before this separation. Any case of discrimination against parents and caregivers due to their disability is not acceptable.
At an ABA webinar on November 13, 2014, Powell was joined by Ella Callow, legal programs director at the National Center for Parents with Disabilities in Berkeley, CA, and Katherine Nemens, supervising attorney, Clubhouse Family Legal Support Project, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, Boston, MA. They shared tips on representing parents with disabilities in dependency and family court cases.
Automatic bypass of family reunification services and streamlined efforts to terminate rights of parents with disabilities are also common. State laws have helped shaped these trends, said Powell. More than two-thirds of dependency statutes include disability as a ground to terminate parental rights. And in every state, parental disability may be considered when determining the best interests of a child in a family or dependency court case, she said.
Bias and stigma by judges and attorneys lacking knowledge or understanding of disabilities and mental health issues for parents also lead to poor outcomes for many parents with disabilities. Legal Barriers Across family and juvenile dependency courts, parents with disabilities face challenges. Powell highlighted barriers in family court while Callow covered those in dependency court.
No harm requirement. To clarify the meaning of the best interests of the child standard, many states have adopted the model custody language proposed by the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, said Powell. The act includes “the mental and physical health of all individuals involved” as a factor courts can consider when determining the best interests of the child.
There is no requirement that the disability be shown to be causing harm to the child, therefore courts can base custody and visitation decisions on the parent’s disability alone. Conflicting case law. Court opinions reflect ambivalence about the best interest standard, said Powell. She cited two commonly cited court cases as examples. In In re Marriage of Carney, 598 P.2d 36 (Cal. 1979), the California Supreme Court held a father’s disability did not prevent him from engaging with and maintaining a bond with his child. In that case the court held the father’s disability should not be considered in the custody determination.
However, this view has not been consistently enforced, said Powell, and many parents with disabilities continue to experience discrimination in child custody or visitation matters. Powell contrasted Carney with Holtz v. Holtz, 595 N.W.2d 1 (N.D. 1999). In that case, the North Dakota Supreme Court held it was in a child’s best interests to award custody to the father over the mother who suffered from an intellectual disability. Although the father had a history of anger issues and had had little contact with his child, the court weighed the mother’s disability and found it would be in the child’s best interests for the father to receive custody.
Dependency courts Callow explained how parents with disabilities fare in civil dependency courts, noting that parenting is a civil right long established in U.S. jurisprudence. She added that several U.S. Supreme Court cases have held that states may intervene to protect children only if the parent is unfit. Although every state recognizes this standard, Callow said 37 states explicitly allow parental disability as a ground for removal, termination of parental rights, and/or automatic bypass of reunification services.
These grounds are allowed because of the belief that courts never intervene without a nexus between the parent’s disability and the child’s safety. In practice, the nexus is often not there, said Callow. ADA protections and limits. Among the ADA’s protections for parents in dependency cases, agencies must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in their practices, policies, and procedures, said Callow. Equal access to programs, services, and activities must also be provided to people with disabilities.
Among the ADA’s limits, most courts have held the ADA is not a defense to termination of parental rights. This has led to a misconception that Title II of the ADA requiring accommodations for people with disabilities does not apply to child welfare cases. Another challenge is that the ADA did not fix a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Cleburne v. Cleburne, 473 U.S. 432, requiring no strict scrutiny of discriminatory state disability laws. ASFA protections and limits.
The 1997 federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) governing child welfare proceedings also protects parents with disabilities in dependency cases but has some limitations, said Callow. An example is ASFA’s requirement to provide parents reasonable services to address their parenting issues, which conflicts with its provision allowing bypass of reunification efforts based a parent’s disability. Callow explained that ASFA lists mental disability and mental illness as aggravated circumstances allowing for bypass of reunification services. ASFA’s shortened permanency timelines also set unrealistic expectations for parents with disabilities and conflict with the ADA by not providing accommodations and flexibility for these parents.
Most parents with disabilities need to start services earlier, receive them more often, and use them for a longer period to address their issues and successfully reunify with their children, said Callow. She cited an exception to the ASFA timeline in 32 states to file for termination of parental rights when the parent has not been provided reunification services required in the case plan. She urged practitioners in these states to get the proper accommodations and services into the parent’s case plan early to create flexibility around TPR filings.
Seek modifications and accommodations.
Lack of accommodations for parents’ disabilities create hurdles that are hard for many parents to overcome. “You need to be able to show that the parent is successful at being able to use and benefit from services and accommodations,” said Powell. She offered the following strategies in dependency and family court matters: Dependency courts Show the parent is successful at using a service.
When the state is providing accommodations for the parent’s disabilities, show how the parent is succeeding and benefitting from those services. This can counter arguments related to the parent’s fitness. Identify services or accommodations that are not being provided. At permanency hearings, draw the court’s attention to missing services that would benefit the parent.
If the case proceeds to termination and you can show services or accommodations were not provided it can help show that termination is premature. Make sure accommodations get into the service plan early. You can question the case plan. Make written comments on the service plan, and ask for specific accommodations you believe will help the parent succeed. Challenge decisions not to provide accommodations. If the state is not providing or paying attention to accommodations, file a grievance with the child welfare agency. If that doesn’t work, consider filing a motion for an abuse of discretion with the court.
These motions may not succeed, but in the interest of using accommodation issues at trial, it’s worth pursuing them early in the case to draw attention to the fact that the state is not providing them to your client. Question the state agency decision maker (e.g., social worker’s supervisor) on their decision not to provide a service or accommodation. Ask: How did you decide a requested service or accommodation didn’t need to be provided?
Family courts In family courts, there is no specific requirement that anyone provide accommodations to parents with disabilities, said Powell. The state is not a party to the proceedings in the way it is in child dependency proceedings, there is no duty by the state to provide reasonable efforts to reunify the parent and child, and the case involves the best interests of the child standard. Therefore, it is harder to argue for accommodations. Two arguments to make: Focus on the parent’s ability to mitigate the harm or potential harm that’s being alleged to the child in connection with the parent’s disability. Pay attention to the evidence that you can create when advocating for your client, connecting them with the right services, and pushing the court to pay attention to services and to focus on parenting ability not just the existence of a disability.
ADA Title II (State and Local Government)
Reasonable Modification or Accommodation A public entity must reasonably modify its policies, practices, or procedures if needed to make the public entity’s programs, services, or activities accessible for a person with a disability. Changes in such policies, practices, or procedures are called reasonable modifications (also called accommodations).
HOW TO REQUEST AN ACCOMMODATION: ACCOMMODATION FORM LETTER
Sample Accommodation Request Letter
The following is an example of what can be included in an accommodation request letter and is not intended to be legal advice.
Date of Letter
Agency?Employer's address Dear (e.g., Supervisor, Manager, Human Resources, Personnel):
Content to consider in body of letter:
Identify yourself as a person with a disability State that you are requesting accommodations under the ADA (or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if you are a federal employee) Identify your specific problematic job tasks Identify your accommodation ideas Request your agency/employer's accommodation ideas Refer to attached medical documentation if appropriate* Ask that your employer respond to your request in a reasonable amount of time
Your printed name
Cc: to appropriate individuals
You may want to attach medical information to your letter to help establish that you are a person with a disability and to document the need for accommodation.
28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b); see also 28 C.F.R. pt. 35, App. B (explaining in the 1991 Section-by-Section guidance to the Title II regulation that, “[t]aken together, the provisions [in 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)] are intended to prohibit exclusion . . . of individuals with disabilities and the denial of equal opportunities enjoyed by others, based on, among other things, presumptions, patronizing attitudes, fears, and stereotypes about individuals with disabilities. Consistent with these standards, public entities are required to ensure that their actions are based on facts applicable to individuals and not presumptions as to what a class of individuals with disabilities can or cannot do.”); School Bd. of Nassau County v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273, 285 (1987).
28 C.F.R.§ 35.160(a)(1); see also 45 C.F.R. § 84.52(d) (requiring health and social services entities to provide appropriate auxiliary aids to persons with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills, where necessary to afford such persons an equal opportunity to benefit from the service in question).
29 U.S.C. § 794; see U.S. Dep’t of Transp. v. Paralyzed Veterans of America, 477 U.S. 597, 600 n.4 (1986). We also remind judges and court personnel of their obligations under the American Bar Association, Model Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 2.3 (b) that states: “A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, . . . and shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.”
28 C.F.R. §§ 35.170-172; 45 C.F.R. § 84.61; see also 28 C.F.R. § 42.530. In addition, child welfare agencies and courts that employ 50 or more persons are required to have grievance procedures for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging actions prohibited by Title II and Section 504. 28 C.F.R. § 35.107; 45 C.F.R. § 84.6; see also 28 C.F.R. § 42.505.
Across the country, parents with disabilities are denied basic civil rights in custody and family court, child welfare, adoption and foster care, reproductive health, and other aspects of a parenting.
Experts will discuss the complaint process in four areas: ADA Title I, Employment; ADA Title II, Public Entities; ADA Title III, Public Accommodations
The United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division enforces federal laws that protect you from discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, disability status, sex, religion, familial status, or loss of other constitutional rights. If you believe your civil rights, or someone else’s, have been violated, submit a report using the online form:
The Americans with Disabilities Act provides an important tool to fight discrimination: filing a complaint with an appropriate federal agency.
Who You Can File a Complaint Against? If you believe that you or someone else was discriminated against based on a disability, you can file an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
File a complaint against: a state government or local government, such as a state or local government program or a private business that serves the public.
To file a complaint for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), go to the following page:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), enforces federal civil rights laws, conscience and religious freedom laws, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules, and the Patient Safety Act and Rule, which together protect your fundamental rights of nondiscrimination, conscience, religious freedom, and health information privacy at covered entities.
File a civil rights complaint with HHS online at the following link:
If you have any questions or need help filing a civil rights, conscience or religious freedom, or health information privacy complaint, you may email OCR at OCRMail@hhs.gov or call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights toll-free at: 1-800-368-1019, TDD: 1-800-537-7697.
The purpose of attorney discipline is to protect the public and the administration of justice from attorneys who have not discharged their professional duties to clients, the public, the legal system, and the legal profession. The professional conduct of attorneys and the discipline process is governed by Rules 41-74, Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court.
All formal complaints of misconduct are filed by the State Bar of Arizona with the Disciplinary Clerk, Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge. To file a complaint against an attorney, please call the State Bar of Arizona at: 602-252-4804
File a complaint for attorney misconduct online at the following link:
The complainant and the judge will be notified by mail of the Commission's decision at the conclusion of the investigation. If either disagrees with the decision, he or she may file a motion for reconsideration within fifteen days of the mailing of the Commission's order.
Anyone can file a complaint against a judge. Click on complaint form for the Commission's official complaint form. A letter will be treated as a complaint if it contains the information required on the official form. There is no charge for filing a complaint.
To file an online complaint against an Arizona Judge with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, go to the following link:
We do not endorse complaints to the Ombudsman, based on multiple complaints by parents of gross disatisfaction and corruption.
We do not endorse filing a civil rights complaint with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, as there is a conflict of interest for the AG to investigate civii rights violations of their own Assistant Attorney Generals.
Arizona State Bar Complaints and Attorney General Complaints against DCS lawyers and juvenile family law attorneys:
If you believe that a juvenile court judge has acted in violation of the judicial code of conduct in your DCS dependency case, you can register a complaint against them:
Arizona Advocacy Foundation for Victims of DCS Corruption is not a law firm, does not act as your attorney, and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney. Our non-profit advocacy foundation does not provide any legal advice, and none of the information provided herein or on this website should be construed as legal advice. We cannot provide legal advice and can only provide educational resources and links to other organizations and agencies that may be of assistance Our company cannot provide legal advice for any situation or case.
“A parent's right to the care and companionship of his or her children are so fundamental, as to be guaranteed protection under the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. In re: J.S. and C., 324 A 2d 90; supra 129 NJ Super, at 489.”
“No bond is more precious and none should be more zealously protected by the law as the bond between parent and child." Carson v. Elrod, 411 F Supp 645, 649; DC E.D. VA (1976).”
Most state courts are courts of general jurisdiction, whereas federal courts have limited jurisdiction.
That is, state courts are presumed to have power to hear virtually any claim arising under federal or state law, except those falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts.
Arizona Advocacy Foundation for Victims of DCS Corruption is not a law firm, does not act as your attorney, and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney.
Don not misconstrue our pro se resources, self help links, or parent advocacy efforts in the community as legal advice in your lawsuit against Arizona Department of Child Safety.
We do offer self -help resources and links to websites in the community that helps parents navigate the legal system.
There are free legal services for parents who want to file a lawsuit against Arizona DCS, as well as low cost legal aid if you want to sue Arizona DCS for violations of your parenting rights. For more information, go to the following link:
There are also organizations that represent citizens at no cost for civil rights violations.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):
ACLU of Arizona:
New Civil Liberties Alliance:
The right to appear pro se in a civil case in federal court is contained in a statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1654. Thus, anyone can appear pro se, and anyone who appears before the Court without an attorney is considered pro se.
Self-help forms are available for pro-se litigants in fderal court at the following link:
The US District Court has a website that provides information to individuals who are representing themselves in civil matters in the District of Arizona without the assistance of an attorney:
Parents who file a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Child Safety are encouraged to read and reference , "Representing Yourself in Federal District Court: A Handbook for Pro Se Litigants." The handbook was created by the Federal Bar, Access to Justice Task Force:
All legal matters are intricate.
If you need legal representation, are involved in litigation, or have complex legal issues that cannot be handled or dealt with on your own, you should seek competent legal advice and/or hire an attorney.
$15 million lawsuit against Arizona DCS and the Department of Economic Security. He cited “failed child protection practices and policies.” The lawsuit showed that Frodsham had “utilized the State of Arizona and the foster care system to funnel innocent, vulnerable children into his home, so he could run a pedophile ring:
In this termination of parental rights case the Supreme Court held that when a juvenile court finds a parent unfit for neglecting or willfully abusing a child the court may also find the parent unfit as to that parent's non-abused children but must first determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence of a risk of harm to the children:
Settlement reached in federal class action on behalf of Arizona kids in foster care:
After losing his parental rights, then getting them back, man seeks $25M in damages:
Arizona Paid $900,000 After Social Workers Tore a Mesa Family Apart and Lied About It:
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