Category: CPS/DHS

Case Dismissed

Alleged Deprived Child and DHS Takes the Child [Garvin County, OK]

Criminal Charge: Alleged Deprived Child and DHS Takes Custody of the Child
Case: In the Matter of V.A., an Alleged Deprived Child
Court: [Garvin County, OK]
Result: Case Dismissed


An attorney learns to recognize certain red flags.  One such red flag is a prospective client who has hired and fired one or more lawyers before coming to you for help.  Often, this indicates a difficult client.  Sometimes, however, it indicates a difficult case and a person in genuine need of zealous advocacy.

The transcript of the pretrial hearing and reversal with directions to dismiss the case provide the bottom line, but the broader story is this.

One of this mother’s three young children had been seized by the good people at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services [“DHS”].  She was poor and desperate. Her paperwork suggested the reason she was hiring and firing lawyers was the father of the out-of-wedlock child seized was a local lawyer: it appeared he was driving the many efforts to seize all her children with anonymous calls to DHS about her parenting skills because she refused to divorce and marry him. Haslam agreed to defend her; as an attorney from Tulsa County, many miles from the parochial venue of Garvin County, he labored under none of the worries about offending local officials who appeared to be manufacturing evidence.

Haslam subpoenaed a number of witnesses to the bench trial before the Hon. CHARLES N. GRAY [when an Oklahoma parent wishes to contest a “deprived finding” rather than agree to the allegations and work a “treatment plan” before she can get her kids back, she can only have a trial by a judge, not a jury, unless and until DHS decides to try to terminate her parental rights….].

But there were subpoena problems.  When a witness is subpoenaed, a “return of service” MUST be filed with the Clerk of Court who then files the return in the case file.  On his arrival for the bench trial, however, Haslam learned the case file was not present that day.  Because a lawyer cannot enforce the appearance of his witnesses if they refuse to attend without showing the trial court the returns of service, Haslam inquired where the file was and offered to retrieve it.  Gray was offended by the request for the court file, held him in direct contempt of court and ordered him jailed for ten days.  In the book-in process, he was searched, put in an orange jumpsuit, mugshotted and joined a group of prospective clients in a courthouse holding cell.  Gray later heralded the contempt in the local paper but released Haslam from jail after several hours.

At trial before a replacement judge weeks later, Haslam called the DHS caseworker who seized the child, the two officers at the scene of the child’s removal, the attorney father and, most importantly, the physician specifically trained in detecting child abuse injuries who inspected the child after DHS removed her from the home.  The cops testified the home was NOT filthy, as the caseworker alleged.  The physician testified the child did NOT exhibit injuries inconsistent with accidental trauma, as the caseworker alleged.  In fact, it became apparent that caseworker had flat-out lied to the Court in the original show-cause hearing when she testified the physician had observed such injuries.  Nonetheless, the replacement judge found the child had been deprived.  Stunning.  Haslam appealed.

On appeal, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed this decision and ordered Gray to dismiss the case.  In its page 18, first full paragraph, the attached decision includes [see link above to the reversal] the appellate court’s remarkable language that the case was not even close….

This case demonstrates what too many Oklahoma parents know.  True Believers – DHS staff, the prosecutor and the Court – wear blinders and refuse to see evidence.  Indeed, this case is the second time I have exposed a DHS caseworker flatly lying under oath to a trial court, and the appellate court expressly called out her lie in the attached decision.

After the mother’s case was closed and she had her child home, Haslam turned his attention to Gray’s contempt citation and appealed it to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court elects to review very few of the cases it is presented and when it does it’s a strong indication it will reverse.  Here, the Court granted review.  Days later, the Assistant Attorney General tasked with defending Gray’s decision called Haslam’s attorney requesting he agree to an Order vacating the contempt citation if Haslam would abandon his appeal.  The contempt citation was vacated and Judge Charles Gray of McIntosh County, OK avoided what likely would have been yet another appellate reversal of his work.

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Case Dismissed

Alleged Deprived Child and DHS Takes the Child [Tulsa]

Criminal Case: Alleged Deprived Child and DHS Takes Custody of the Child
Case: In re T.A.
Court: [JD-04-05, Tulsa County]
Result: Case Dismissed


Because juvenile matters are confidential by Oklahoma statute, the docket sheet and the identity of the child in this “juvenile deprived” matter cannot be revealed, but Haslam represented T.A.’s 19 year old mother. The State alleged her live-in boyfriend had physically abused T.A., and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services [“OKDHS”] took the child from her because it alleged she permitted the boyfriend to do it.

If you know anything about the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, you won’t be surprised to hear that the night before the OKDHS investigator seized the child from his home, a Tulsa PD officer checked on the child in his home and found him fine. Nonetheless, the investigator alleged he was covered with bruises when she took him the next day. Haslam subpoenaed the radio dispatch audiotapes concerning that police call. The audiotape revealed the officer – who was specifically trained in child abuse investigations – reporting that the mother consented to his personal inspection of the child and that he found no signs of harm. He reported on the radio and in a written report that the child was “happy, well-fed, and alert and perceived no reason to suspect abuse.” Haslam listed this officer, the audiotape and the investigator on his witness and exhibit list for the “adjudication” hearing and sent the list to the prosecutor.

Rather than risk the investigator testifying under oath and contrary to the officer, the State dismissed the case on the day of the hearing and returned T.A. to his mother.