EXCERPTS FROM THE DCYF

COURT AND LEGAL HANDBOOK

Policy Directive 86-26

DCYS Booklet 604 B

August, 1986


Note: As per the Right to Know request of Paula Werme to Nancy Rollins of April 9, 1997, the book was adopted as policy on October 16, 1986. It was repealed in October 2001:


---------------------- Forwarded by Byry D 
Kennedy/FamilyServices/SOPS_Brown/DHHS on 10/31/2001 03:35 PM
---------------------------


Diane Steward
10/23/2001 03:07 PM

To:   SUPERVISORS & STATE OFFICE STAFF
cc:   DCYF ATTORNEYS

Subject:  PD 01-40, RESCIND THE "COURT AND LEGAL HANDBOOK"


          (See attached file: PD01-40.doc)


This PD instructs all staff to no longer use or refer to the "Court and
Legal Handbook" (Form 604B).  Copies of Form 604B that remain in the
District Offices and State Office are to be destroyed.

However, let's preserve the policy as the above Email does little to change 15 years of perception. Besides, I don't know what has replaced this.


Some paragraphs below have the page number reference on the same line as the title - others, especially in the investigative section, have it at the end of the paragraph, because there was such a long section.


DCYF Relations with the courts pp. 9 - 10.

The Division and its workers must be prepared to accommodate themselves to the Court system and the particular District Courts in which they appear: . . .

The contacts with the District Court judges should also be an ongoing process. It is recommended that each DCYF Supervisor set up a meeting with each District Court Judge within the district office's area of responsibility as soon as possible after assuming the supervisory position. The first such meeting should be on a one to one basis between the supervisor and the judge for the purpose of becoming familiar with each other. Subsequent meetings should be held as often as the supervisor and the judge feel it would be appropriate or necessary, and should be used to discuss mutual concerns and resolve any problems which may arise.

It would also be quite helpful if the supervisor could arrange to meet with all of the district judges in the area as a group. Such meetings could be used to update the judges on any changes of the law which affects the Division, for a statistical review of the Division's manpower and caseload, and could also be used to outline differences between the various courts, and to standardize those differences. These meetings could also be used to advise the judges of any expansions or additions to services or resources. The various meetings recommended will help substantially to ease the burdens on the Division and to ensure the Court's fullest cooperation.

Investigation p. 18.

The authority for the Investigation is granted to the Division by statute. However, the statute is silent as to the extent of the Divisions powers to conduct that investigation. What is clear, is that the powers of the Division are sufficient to require the cooperation of any agency, governmental unit or school approached by the Division for help or information. But it is not a power anywhere equal to that of the police. Where the police have the power to enter a residence in the event of an emergency and to remove a child the officer deems to be in immediate danger, the Division cannot do so unless the worker first goes to the Court for an order directing that it be done.

This rather tentative power is both a curse and a blessing. It is a curse in that hours may be wasted in an emergency where minutes are precious. Yet it is a blessing in that the worker's leeway in pursuing the investigation is not fettered or hindered by a fear for the parents' rights. In other words, the limitation on the power to act is offset by a much freer ability to investigate without fear of violating rights or running afoul of technicalities.

Anyone who ever watched television is aware that parties under investigation have certain constitutional rights, such as the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc. However, these rights are applicable most specifically during a criminal investigation by the police. Since abuse and neglect are not, in and of themselves, criminal matters, and as the Division and its workers are not police, the reading or the giving of rights are not required. . .

While under law, the rights of all perpetrators are exactly the same, in reality, the nature and extent of these rights may differ markedly depending on the perpetrator's relationship to the family unit. p. 20.

Keep in mind that all perpetrators do have substantial rights, and that the greater the possibility of criminal charges the greater the respect and observance that must be given to those rights. While the family relationship can be exploited to some degree in the investigatory process, be very careful not to exceed your authority or to unduly infringe on any person's rights. p. 22.

It is inevitable that at some point, some person's rights will be infringed upon. Yet, should such a situation arise it is unclear as to what could, or would result if an issue were made of the infringement. p. 22.

So long as the matter remains in the District Court as an action under RSA 169-C, it is probable that the issue would be noted by the judge, who may comment on it, and perhaps, chastise the worker for overzealousness, but such an infringement most likely would not affect the ultimate outcome since it is not a criminal matter and no criminal sanctions could or would be applied. However, if criminal charges do arise, the results are less certain although the outcome would probably be the same unless the infringement was of such a serious nature that it could not reasonably be ignored or condoned. p. 23.

When you first approach the family, identify yourself, the agency you're with, advise the person of your purpose, that you are required by law to conduct an investigation and ask their permission to enter and discuss the situation. if the family member refuses your entry, advise them that if they do not cooperate, you will obtain a court order and police assistance if you must, but in either instance you will conduct the investigation as required by law. If they still refuse, then do just that! However, there should rarely be a need to resort to such measures. p. 26.

Preparation for Court Cases

The goal of preparation is to present a clear, concise and convincing case that the allegations made in the case are true, leaving the judge little choice but to make the finding you wish, and to shape the order in the manner that you wish.

Preparations for Dispositional Hearings

In most instances the information in the social study and the various reports will not contain any surprises. In all probability these reports will merely confirm the impressions formed and the rehabilitation or services you anticipated would be needed from the beginning. However, in order to insure that the dispositional order gives you what you want, your social study, and your presentation to the Court will have to be clearly and carefully crafted to make your point.


Contact Paula Werme, Esq. or return to Law Practice home page.

WWW page produced 1999 August 27, last update 2001 November 26.