A quickie because I am preparing for my son's visit.
The Texas Supreme Court said in an unsigned opinion that Child Protective Services’ removal of children was “not warranted,” and that the agency had “failed to attempt legal steps, short of taking custody, to protect the children.”
The Supreme Court said that state District Court Judge Barbara Walther of San Angelo still has tools at her disposal to protect kids, even if she releases all of the more than 450 children.
The high court pointed to laws allowing her to issue orders to prohibit a child from being removed from a specific geographic area and force “removal of an alleged perpetrator from the child’s home.” Concealing a child or fleeing to thwart a child-abuse investigation also is illegal, the court’s opinion said.
[Update] PDF of the ruling here.
Texas Supreme Court Ruling-FLDS Children - Get more Legal Forms
FULL SCREEN LINK HERE.
Last two pages give some relief to the State to try to secure the safety of the children, short of removing them without further evidence:
The Department petitioned this Court for review by mandamus. Having carefully examined the testimony at the adversary hearing and the other evidence before us, we are not inclined to disturb the court of appeals’ decision. On the record before us, removal of the children was not warranted.
The Department argues without explanation that the court of appeals’ decision leaves the Department unable to protect the children’s safety, but the Family Code gives the district court broad authority to protect children short of separating them from their parents and placing them in foster care. The court may make and modify temporary orders “for the safety and welfare of the child”, including an order “restraining a party from removing the child beyond a geographical area identified by the court”. The court may also order the removal of an alleged perpetrator from the child’s home6 and may issue orders to assist the Department in its investigation. The Code prohibits interference with an investigation, and a person who relocates a residence or conceals a child with the intent to interfere with an investigation commits an offense.
While the district court must vacate the current temporary custody orders as directed by the court of appeals, it need not do so without granting other appropriate relief to protect the children, as the mothers involved in this proceeding concede in response to the Department’s motion for emergency relief. The court of appeals’ decision does not conclude the SAPCR proceedings.