Thursday, January 09, 2020

Bom v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 8, 2020)

Want to be incredibly depressed?  Read the first dozen pages of this opinion.

The case involves the criminal prosecution of four social workers with the L.A. County DCFS of allegedly falsifying records in a child neglect case.  Justice Rothschild ultimately holds, in a split opinion, that the defendants cannot be prosecution, and dismisses the charges.

The first twelve pages of the opinion examines in excruciating detail the facts of the underling child neglect investigation.  When you read the first ten or so, you're confronted with easily imaginable circumstances.  There are some serial claims and evidence of child abuse, and the social workers do a thorough investigation over a long period of time and regarding a large number of different claims as they arise.  What they find is contradictory.  Some evidence points to possible abuse, but there are consistently plausible explanations for the bruises, etc.  So there are unannounced inspections, family therapy, investigations, etc., but ultimately, the kid stays with his mother.

And you can see why.  You might come out the other way.  But you might come out the way it did as well.  Touch case.

Then you read the last two pages of the facts.  About finding the kid basically dead.

And you're horrified.  The stuff you discover then makes it crystal clear (to me, at least) that there was indeed abuse all along.  All the initial stories about abuse previously were spot on.  All of the excuses were total lies.  And the child dies as a direct result.

It'd be less depressing if the facts demonstrated a total lack of caring or competence on the part of DCFS or the social workers.  That we can solve (at least in the future) by hiring social workers who are competent and caring.

But that's not what I see here.  I see a close case, with disputable but arguably reasonable calls.

All of which result in the tragic death of a child.

I did a little background work after I read the opinion.  Apparently the L.A. Times called the underlying prosecution of the mother and her boyfriend "one of the most infamous and chilling child abuse cases in California history."  And, reading the Court of Appeal's opinion, you can totally see why.