DETROIT (WXYZ) - The Detroit mother accused of firing a gun and holding police at bay after they came to take her daughter was in court Thursday.
The judge postponed the preliminary hearing for Maryanne Godboldo – but Action News Investigator Heather Catallo is digging into a key claim that arose today in court: was the order used to take the child valid?
The Investigators have been taking a close look at how child protective services workers take children away from the parents. The attorney in the Godboldo case is now claiming the signature on this order was rubber stamped – and she’s not sure it was the judge who actually stamped it.
Maryanne Godboldo’s attorney says when a CPS caseworker came to take her 13 year old daughter in March – Godboldo demanded to see the court order authorizing the child’s removal from her home. Allison Folmar says her client never got a good look at the order before the situation spiraled out of control, with allegations that Godboldo fired a shot, followed by a lengthy police standoff.
Now Folmar is saying the order isn’t valid.
“The order was never verified; it was never confirmed as to whether or not this is actually an order. The police met the CPS worker on the street, she hands them a piece of paper that is not officially filed with the county, it has a rubber stamp, and it’s not completely filled out,” said Folmar
Folmar says Godboldo came to the attention of CPS because she decided to stop giving her daughter anti-psychotic medication that Godboldo believed was harming the girl. Folmar says there’s no indication that the caseworker ever presented a judge with evidence that the child needed to be on the drugs, and she’s arguing that if the order to take the child is invalid, the police had no right to enter Godboldo’s home.
“We know there’s a child in the home, who is presumed to be mentally compromised – why do you kick the door in? Why do you scare the child and the mother? Let’s use the least amount of force first,” said Folmar
The Action News Investigators obtained this copy of the order that sparked the standoff.
Folmar points out that the caseworker claims on the order that Godboldo had “numerous” referrals in the last year to CPS for “medical neglect” – Godboldo’s attorneys know of only one. It appears the caseworker checked contradicting boxes on the order – stating both that reasonable efforts to “prevent removal of the child from the home were not made” and that they were made. So which is it? Folmar says the date stamp for when the order was supposedly filed is invalid – it should be an official stamp from the Wayne County Clerk.
And Folmar points out that this alleged signature from the judge is a rubber stamp signature – which she says is not supposed to be used on these removal orders. That’s the same rubber stamp issue that’s at stake in the Mike’s Hard Lemonade case that the Action News Investigators exposed in May. In that case Christopher Ratte mistakenly gave his son, Leo, alcoholic lemonade at a Tiger’s game.
The ACLU is suing the state agency which oversees CPS – and the ACLU says CPS workers put Leo into foster care using an invalid order with the “electronic signature of a judge ‘affixed’” to the order.
“The practice as we understand it, and as we understand happened in this case, is a caseworker rubber stamps a judge’s signature on these orders, and that to us is another indication that it’s a system gone awry, and there’s not enough checks and balances,” said ACLU Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg.
The ACLU lawsuit claims that Detroit police have an on-going practice of helping CPS case workers remove children without valid court orders. And this question of what's called judicial review is a big deal - if judges are not actually hearing the evidence to remove a child from the home, legal experts tell us that's unconstitutional. This one of many issues that will be challenged in this case. Maryanne Godboldo will be back in court on July 25, 2011. So far, CPS officials are not commenting on this.
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