By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer – Sat Feb 26, 9:23 am ET
NEW YORK – Eight years ago, a child protection investigator and a deputy sheriff removed a 9-year-old Oregon girl from her classroom and questioned her at length as to whether her father had sexually abused her. According to the girl, they wouldn't take "no" for an answer, and she falsely incriminated her father.
On Tuesday, that incident will be the focus of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in a divisive case that has roused intense interest among those with a stake in child welfare issues.
The central question: Did the two men violate the Fourth Amendment's ban on "unreasonable search and seizure" when they questioned the girl in that manner without a warrant, without her mother's consent, and in the absence of emergency circumstances?
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, weighing a lawsuit filed by the girl's family, ruled that her rights had been violated. The state of Oregon appealed, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Oregon officials, supported by briefs from the U.S. government, 40 other states, and various law enforcement and child-advocacy groups, argue that requiring a warrant in such cases would undermine a proven method of investigating child abuse. They say investigators initially may lack sufficient evidence to obtain a warrant, and need the leeway to interview a possible victim without the parents' presence, at a school or another site away from home.
On the other side, an attorney representing the Greene family will argue that the interrogation was unconstitutional, and a warrant should have been sought. In support of this stance, 18 friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed by 70 groups, ranging from liberal to conservative, which are concerned about overzealous child-protection policies and encroachment on parental rights.
One reason for the high interest: Experts say it's the first major case involving child-protection services to go before the Supreme Court in 21 years. FULL STORY
This is the Greene V. Camretta case
See American Family Rights Association's brief