DCYF versus the NH Constitution

"It's important to recognize that we are often dealing with the crime of child abuse. It is vital society not become soft on this crime."
Donald Shumway
Head of NH Dept. of HHS
Union Leader, August 22, 1999

"No subject shall be arrested, imprisoned, despoiled, or deprived of his property, immunities, or privileges, put out of the protection of the law, exiled or deprived of his life, liberty, or estate, but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land."
Article 15, Part 1
New Hampshire Constitution

"In all controversies concerning property, and in all suits between two or more persons except those in which another practice is and has been customary and except those in which the the value in controversy does not exceed $1500 and no title to real estate is involved, the parties have a right to trial by jury. This method of procedure shall be held sacred, unless, in cases arising on the high seas and in cases relating to mariners' wages, the legislature shall think it necessary hereafter to alter it."
Article 20, Part 1
New Hampshire Constitution
June 2, 1784

169-C:14. Hearings Not Open to the Public. "The general public shall be excluded from any hearing under this chapter and such hearing shall, whenever possible, be held in rooms not used for criminal trials. Only such persons as the parties, their witnesses, counsel and representatives of the agencies present to perform their official duties shall be admitted."
NH Child Protection Act

RSA 169-C:25 Confidentiality.

  1. The court records of proceedings under this chapter shall be kept in books and files separate from all other court records. Such records shall be withheld from public inspection but shall be open to inspection by the parties, child, parent, guardian, custodian, attorney or other authorized representative of the child.

  2. It shall be unlawful for any party present during a child abuse or neglect hearing to disclose any information concerning the hearing without the prior permission of the court. Any person who knowingly violates this provision shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
NH Child Protection Act

"The notion the department would threaten an individual with criminal prosecution for violation of confidentiality laws in an effort to keep them from testifying before a legislative study committee is absurd."
Linda Saunders, DCYF's chief legal counsel

"It is requested that this violation of the confidentiality provision of the Child Protection Act be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
James Anderson, DCYF attorney, in a request for prosecution of people featured in a Concord Monitor story.

"Free speech and liberty of the press are essential to the security of freedom in a state. They ought, therefore, to be inviolably preserved."
Article 22, Part 1, NH Constitution

"As [the child's] father, the petitioner is not prevented from accessing the file and other records relating to this case and disclosing the contents to others according to his own judgment."
From a court Order dated June 14, 2000
The Honorable George L. Manias

"The only reason you want to get a copy of my file is to prove your case that [the child] was not abused. I'm not going to help you do that."
NH State Trooper Russ Conte to
Parent Attorney Paula Werme
January 28, 1999
Following the second finding of abuse
in the secret, civil trial.

"We all came to a conclusion that we did not have a definite diagnosis- it could have been infectious but the cultures were not helpful, it could have been traumatic but it resolved fairly quickly and left no scarring."
Dr. Steven Kairys
Former Child Abuse expert at
Dartmouth Hitchcock, on the
same case, in an e-mail to
Paula Werme Feb 24, 1999.

"Every subject shall have a right to produce all proofs that may be favorable to himself"
Article 15, Part 1
NH Constitution

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

Last updated 2001 May 7.