Attorney: 9th Circuit ruling exposes state to hefty damages in bitter child custody case
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal appeals court said a Kauai police official and state Child Welfare workers may have violated the constitutional rights of a Big Island mother and her 11-year-old daughter when they removed the girl in 2019.
The mother’s attorney said the ruling exposes the state and the KPD to millions of dollars in potential damages.
“We’re certainly talking about seven figures in damages but we’re also talking about appropriate changes so the social workers on their own don’t play God and just take children,” said Eric Seitz, attorney for Hanna David and her daughter.
“This was just a horrific experience for anybody to go through.”
The Ninth Circuit Court said KPD employee Gina Kaulukukui and CPS workers misled a family court judge when he issued an order to remove David’s daughter from her school and place her under the custody of her father William Keahiolalo, a Kauai firefighter.
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The court said the Kaulukukui and the CPS workers failed to tell the judge that David had full custodial rights of the girl and that there was a court order requiring the father to stay away from them.
“The law clearly established that a parent and child’s constitutional right to familial association is violated when a state official interferes with a parent’s lawful custody through judicial deception,” the ruling said.
“David and her daughter’s constitutional right to familial association was clearly established such that a reasonable official in Kaulukukui’s shoes would have understood that her alleged actions were a constitutional violation.”
The girl has since been returned to her mother and their case goes back to Hawaii federal court for further hearings.
Kauai police officials and the Department of Human Services had no immediate comment.
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