* Background is here if you need it. Sun-Times…
Parents of children in protective custody lost a legal fight that sought to compel the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to reinstate in-person visitation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Caroline Moreland Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit filed by the public defender’s office on behalf of four mothers who said their rights to equal protection under the Constitution were being violated by the indefinite suspension of in-person visits with their children.
Moreland pointed in her ruling that all the plaintiffs had pending emergency motions in their individual cases to deal with visitation.
The court also sided with DCFS, saying the Child Protection Act allows state officials the right to immediately suspend the visits in the interest of a child’s health and well-being.
“In this matter the court is mindful of the concerns for the Plaintiffs’ ability to have in person visitations with their children,” Moreland wrote in her order. “These parents are named parties with open pending abuse and/or neglect cases before the Child Custody Court. That court and those judges continue to address the very issues presented by this case. This court concludes that that forum is the appropriate one for plaintiffs’ grievances.” […]
In a statement, Campanelli said she was disappointed by the ruling. She said she’s weighing her options about a possible appeal, but plans to “continue to challenge this unjust policy.”
“For the past two and a half months, parents, children, and siblings have been denied their right to see each other,” Campanelli said. “To deny them visitation is to deny them basic human dignity and will have serious lasting impacts on families. This decision is contrary to the law and common sense.”
Attorneys representing DCFS and the Cook County public guardian at a hearing last week accused the public defender of “forum shopping” and said the case should be tossed out due to the pending juvenile court cases.
* Chronicle of Social Change…
Public Guardian Charles Golbert said the public defenders were “forum shopping” by suing the state in Moreland’s court, as opposed to in juvenile court where the cases were pending. In the case of each parent named in the motion, he said, there was a pending date in late May or early June to consider a request to mandate in-person visits.
But the juvenile court had repeatedly delayed those hearings amid the statewide stay-at-home order and were likely to do so again, [Deputy Public Defender Aaron Goldstein] said. “The motions were not substantively denied, but they were not heard.”
Golbert called it “rank speculation” that the juvenile court would not meet the next scheduled hearings, and Moreland agreed with the children’s attorney, finding that with scheduled court dates on all four cases, “there need not be duplicative litigation on these issues.”
Monday, as Moreland finished her opinion, the Cook County juvenile court delayed all upcoming hearings for 30 days, according to Goldstein.