CIR challenges Idaho child protection

Claims agency actions violate Constitution

Washington, D.C. — The Center for Individual Rights announced the filing of a class action lawsuit against the Idaho Child Protection Agency, the City of Boise and St. Luke’s Medical Center for violating the constitutional right of parents to direct the medical treatment of their minor children.

The case grew out of the seizure of 5 week old Taige Mueller from her mother, Corissa Mueller, in 2002 during a late night visit to the St. Luke’s Emergency room to treat her for a fever. Physicians sought to immediately administer a spinal tap to the infant in order to ascertain whether she was suffering from meningitis. Apprehensive of the risks of such a procedure, Mrs. Mueller sought to delay the spinal tap while several other, less invasive treatments were administered.

Unbeknownst to Mueller, emergency room personnel contacted Idaho Child Protective Services. Though two Boise Police Officers dispatched to the hospital initially questioned the validity of the imminent danger claim, convinced them to seize Taige, commenting that, “Well, if nothing else, she [can] go to shelter for two days and in that time she would be treated…And then in shelter care the judge can say, ‘Oh send her home.'”

With approval of CPS supervisors, St. Luke’s doctors seized the child and performed the spinal tap while a Boise Detective and two Officers confined the mother to a room and refused her request to allow her to call her husband.

The suit filed on behalf of Taige and her parents, Eric and Corissa Mueller, alleges that city, state, and hospital officials violated the Mueller’s constitutional right to direct the medical treatment of their minor children.

Corissa Mueller added, “What happened to me and to my daughter must never happen again. The St. Luke’s physician conspired with CPS officials to prevent me from caring for my daughter at a time when she most needed me. I was in disbelief as these officials callously sidestepped my rights as a parent when I clearly had my baby’s best interest in mind.”

Boise attorney John Runft, who is representing the Muellers together with the Center, commented, “The practices uncovered by the Muellers routinely and intentionally exclude timely involvement of an independent magistrate judge in decisions to take custody of children from parents. These practices denying parents at least a telephonic hearing with an available magistrate where time permits are an egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the close bond between parents and their children and the parents’ right to make important decisions regarding the welfare of their children without interference from the State.”

CIR President Terence Pell added, “The child protection practices of Idaho and many other states unacceptably give officials a blank check to seize our children. The fact that the St. Luke’s doctor was impatient to get on with treatment is not a sufficient reason to seize an infant child while putting a terrified mother under virtual arrest. Fortunately, the Constitution makes clear that parents have the right to make important medical decisions — not the state.” The suit seeks to enjoin Idaho officials from administering unauthorized medical treatments without first obtaining a court order as well as unspecified compensatory damages for the damages suffered by the Muellers. For further information contact CIR President Terry Pell.