False reports of abuse -- liability

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Marina
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False reports of abuse -- liability

Postby Marina » Sun Oct 01, 2006 12:49 pm

False reports of abuse

II. Acting Under Color of State Law
MacDonald argues that the Muellers have insufficiently alleged state action.
MacDonald contends that his private actions of reporting child abuse or neglect
pursuant to state statute and his subsequent medical treatment of Taige do not
transform him into a state actor. The Court disagrees and finds that MacDonald’s
conduct, as alleged in the Amended Complaint, transformed him into a state actor.
If an individual is possessed of state authority and purports to act under that
authority, his or her action is state action. West v. Atkins 487 U.S. 42, 57 (1988).
An individual is possessed of state authority where the state delegates to the
individual a traditional state function, or a function limited by law to state officials.
Id. at 56.
The Muellers allege that MacDonald assumed the mantle of the state when he
determined that Taige needed to be removed from her mother’s custody. The
Muellers further allege that MacDonald performed a state function when he
physically removed Taige from Corissa’s custody pursuant to I.C. § 16-1612. That
provision provides that “[a] child may be taken into shelter care by a peace officer or
other person appointed by the court.” (emphasis added).5 Because both the
determination that Taige needed to be removed and the subsequent physical removal
are functions traditionally delegated to the state, the Court finds that the Muellers
have adequately alleged state action.
Alternatively, the Muellers allege that MacDonald acted under color of state
law by conspiring with state officials to deprive the Muellers of their constitutional
rights. The Supreme Court has held that
“[p]rivate persons, jointly engaged with state officials in the prohibited
action, are acting ‘under color’ of state law for purposes of the statute.
To act ‘under color’ of law does not require that the accused be an
officer of the State. It is enough that he is a willful participant in joint
activity with the State or its agents.”
United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 787, 794 (1966). The Muellers allege that
MacDonald, by requesting assistance from the Department of Health and Welfare,
was jointly engaged with state officials in illegally removing Taige from parental
custody in order to perform medical procedures on her. Thus, the Muellers have
adequately alleged that MacDonald acted under color of state law by conspiring with
state agents.

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