Case Conclusion Date: September 15, 2004
Practice Area: Civil Rights
Outcome: Dismissal of petition to review agency reversed
Description: Catherine Burt, who suffered from severe migraine headaches for which her doctor prescribed injections of the drug demerol, called 911 when she feared her infant daughter may have been accidentally pricked by a needle, a fear that proved incorrect and the child had suffered no harm. Although the child was returned to the care and custody Burt, a pharmacist, and her husband, a decorated navy pilot, the county social services agency filed a report with the state's Child Abuse Central Index (CACI), classifying the incident as a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect, while denying Burt a hearing to challenge the determination. Burt sued the County of Orange to compel such a hearing, arguing she had a due process right to be heard before being listed in CACI, but the court denied the petition and dismissed. Burt appealed and the court of appeal reversed, directing the county to provide such a hearing using procedures devised by the trial court. As a result of the decision, Orange County has adopted hearing procedures to permit parents and others accused of neglect or abuse an opportunity to be heard before their names are added to the CACI, a repository of data made accessible to law enforcement and state licensing agencies. As a result of the Burt case, the California legislature has enacted laws insuring that all persons be granted a hearing to protect their due process rights before being added to the CACI list.