Jump to Navigation | Jump to Content
American Bar Association

Children's Rights Litigation

Camreta v. Greene, No. 09–1454 (U.S. May 26, 2011)

 

The Supreme Court held that Camreta v. Greene [PDF] is moot because S.G. has no continuing stake in the controversy. It vacated the portion of the Ninth Circuit opinion that found that officials are required to have a warrant prior to interviewing suspected child abuse victims at school, and it remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.


The Supreme Court’s decision describes the background thusly:


Nearly a decade ago, petitioner Camreta, a state child protective services worker, and petitioner Alford, a county deputy sheriff, interviewed then 9-year-old S.G. at her Oregon elementary school about allegations that her father had sexually abused her. They did not have a warrant or parental consent to conduct the interview. S.G. eventually stated that she had been abused. Her father stood trial for that abuse, but the jury failed to reach a verdict and the charges were later dismissed. S.G.’s mother, respondent here (hereinafter S.G.), subsequently sued Camreta and Alford on S.G.’s behalf for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the in-school interview breached the Fourth Amendment’s proscription on unreasonable seizures. The District Court granted summary judgment to the officials. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Court of Appeals first ruled that seizing S.G. absent a warrant, court order, parental consent, or exigent circumstances violated the Constitution. But the court further held that the officials were entitled to qualified immunity from damages liability because no clearly established law had warned them of the illegality of their conduct. The court explained that it had chosen to rule on the merits of the constitutional claim so that officials would be on notice that they could not dispense with traditional Fourth Amendment protections in this context. Although the judgment entered was in their favor, Camreta and Alford petitioned this Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling . . . .


The Supreme Court held that it could review the appellate court’s constitutional decision, even though Camreta was the prevailing party below. Nevertheless, the Court held that the case is moot because S.G. has no continuing stake in the controversy, given that she lives in Florida and is almost 18. Consequently, it vacated the portion of the Ninth Circuit opinion that found that, under the Fourth Amendment, officials are required to have a warrant prior to interviewing suspected child abuse victims at school.


Justice Kagan wrote the majority opinion in which Roberts, Scalia, Ginsberg, and Alito joined. Scalia wrote a concurring opinion. Sotomayor, joined by Breyer, wrote an opinion concurring in the result but opining that the Court should have decided only that the case was moot and vacated the judgment below. Kennedy, joined by Thomas, wrote a dissent concluding that Camreta as a “prevailing party” should not have been permitted to appeal the constitutional decision below.


— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


 
Copyright © 2017, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).

Back to Top