Is It Constitutional For CPS Caseworkers To Lie In Court? (Part 2)

This California case went all the way to the Supreme Court before a mother was vindicated.


Thanks for joining us again as we discuss the incredible case of Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick and the years-long battle she has waged against over-reaching CPS agents. Although this case isn’t happening in Michigan, it is a clear example of what can happen when an agency with such power runs unchecked. The damage done to families and children lasts for a lifetime.


In the previous article we explained the struggle that Fogarty-Hardwick had getting custody of her daughters after her divorce. Two specific Orange County Social Services social workers, Marcie Vreeken and Helen Dwojak, took issue with her and used the system to punish her for not complying with their demands. She was lied to, coerced, insulted, and ended up taking the county to court – a case which she lost.


After her second lawsuit, this time a much more successful effort which was upheld by the Supreme Court, the case still wasn’t over. Vreeken’s attorneys appealed the decision on the grounds that although state code instructs caseworkers not to lie, no case law or precedent exists to suggest that a caseworker lying to the court lying is unconstitutional. Vreeken claimed that as a government worker, she was entitled to qualified immunity from prosecution in federal court unless A) a constitutional rights was violated, and B) it was clearly established that she knew “without a doubt” that her actions were a violation of law.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California heard the arguments, and upheld the decision.


The county Board of Supervisors appealed on the grounds that the jury verdict had been unfair, but in June of 2010 the state appeals court affirmed the jury’s original decision. This was followed by the U.S. Supreme Court, who also supported the verdict. They also affirmed $1.6 million in attorneys’ fees for the legal team that had represented Fogarty-Hardwick.


Many people hoped that there would be some kind of repercussion for the two social workers who lied to and deceived this mother, and used the child welfare system to punish her for non-compliance. That however, was not to be. Sadly, Vreeken was promoted after the ordeal, and is now a trainer in charge of other social workers in the county.


Another interesting development in this story, though, is the fact that  Fogarty-Hardwick’s daughters have reached adult age since the case began, and at least one of them has followed in her mother’s footsteps. Preslie Hardwick, who was one of the girls separated from her mother as a child by those two unbelievable CPS workers, has also brought suit against the county. She is alleging that the social workers who fabricated evidence to keep her and her sister away from their mother committed perjury..


The case was reviewed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the outcome looks promising. According to the opinion written by Judge Stephen Trott, “No official with an IQ greater than room temperature in Alaska could claim that he or she did not know that the conduct at the center of this case violated both state and federal law. Perjury is a crime under both federal and California state law, as is the knowing submission of false evidence to a court. … Because they are supported by the record as a whole, we construe the facts Preslie offers in support of her allegations in the light most favorable to her.”


It remains to be seen how this particular case will turn out, but the road looks smoother for Hardwick than it did for her mother. We will keep an eye out as the case develops and keep you posted. Until then, if you or a loved one have been the victim of overzealous CPS workers, The Kronzek Firm is here to help. Our skilled CPS defense attorneys have decades of experience helping parents and caregivers all over Michigan. We can help you too!