Hardwick v. County of Orange, No. 17-56292 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In November 1999, the SSA filed a dependency petition on behalf of plaintiff and her sister against their parents. The juvenile dependency court assumed jurisdiction over the children, but permitted them to remain in their mother's custody and to have supervised visitation with their father. In February 2000, the dependency court ordered that the children be removed from mother's custody. In 2001, mother filed an action in California superior court alleging that Orange County social workers violated her constitutional right to familial association. The jury returned verdicts in favor of mother against all defendants except one. Plaintiff filed this 2013 federal action alleging that defendants violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to familial association and her Fourth Amendment right against wrongful seizure.
The Ninth Circuit held that where constitutional familial rights are at stake, there are identical companionship rights between a parent and child that could allow a plaintiff to invoke issue preclusion to bar relitigation of issues previously decided. However, in this case, plaintiff cannot assert issue preclusion because mother litigated more than just the overlapping companionship rights in her state court case and the panel cannot determine the basis for the jury's verdict. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish that the issues litigated in the prior state proceeding were identical to the issues raised in her federal case.