For years, attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute have warned parents that, once CPS decides to investigate them for child abuse - sometimes based on anonymous tips from neighbors or vindictive ex-spouses - their names can end up on California's Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). Parents are listed on the CACI even when CPS eventually deems the charges "inconclusive" and closes its files. The CACI listing shows up on background checks for years to come and prevents parents from obtaining jobs or state licenses.
In Humphries v. County of Los Angeles, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sharply criticized the ease with which people are listed on the CACI and the obstacles which prevent their names from being removed. The court was also troubled by a study indicating that as many as half of the more than 800,000 individuals listed on the CACI "may have a legitimate basis for expungement." Calling the list "the reverse of the presumption of innocence in our criminal justice system," the court ordered the state to enact greater procedural safeguards.
PJI President Brad Dacus commented, "It is gratifying that the Ninth Circuit has acknowledged what we have been saying for years-that treating parents as criminals when they are never convicted of a crime is unjust. We call on the legislature to finally fix this broken system in a way that honors basic constitutional rights."
Karen Milam, who directs PJI's Southern California office, stated, "Every year, PJI is inundated with hundreds of calls from desperate parents who do not understand how they could be labeled as child abusers based solely on unproven suspicions. This ruling is an important step toward keeping CPS honest."