Mass. couple sues authorities over removal of children

Mass. couple sues authorities over removal of children

Mass. couple sues authorities over removal of children

A husband and wife who were accused of child abuse, and who fought authorities for four months for the return of their two children, are suing state and local authorities in federal court over the nightmarish ordeal.

Sarah Perkins and Josh Sabey, who live in Waltham, Massachusetts, have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Waltham and four of its police officers, and against four officials with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

The complaint, which seeks a jury trial, was filed May 5 in Boston with help from Pacific Legal Foundation which is representing the plaintiffs.

The family’s troubles began July 12, 2022 with a late-night fever. Sarah Perkins took Cal, then 4 months old, to an emergency room. Doctors ordered an x-ray to check for pneumonia but instead discovered a rib that had been fractured but was almost healed. The hospital made a call to Children and Families, and soon a social worker showed up and grilled the mother before she was finally allowed to go home with the toddler.

The allegations were not over, however, and the next night Children and Families officials came to the home with police officers and took Cal and Clarence, 3, from the home.

A judge granted conditional custody in August, which included monitoring while an investigation continued, and the case was finally dismissed four months later in November. It turned out the fractured rib likely occurred when a grandmother was placing the toddler in a car seat. 

PLF attorney Daniel Woislaw tells AFN the lawsuit alleges city and state authorities violated his client’s 4th Amendment rights and 14th Amendment rights by taking their children without a warrant.

Woislaw, Daniel (PLF attorney) Woislaw

“Unless there is an emergency, your house is on fire, there is somebody who is barricaded in there with a firearm, unless there is an emergency,” the attorney insists, “the government has to go to a judge first. That did not happen here."

According to a story last year by Boston 10, an NBC News affiliate, Massachusetts authorities snatched the kids without a judge’s authority on the basis of an emergency removal. An attorney and a state lawmaker quoted in the story said the family’s ordeal demonstrated the need for a judicial review, much like obtaining a restraining order or a search warrant.

Woislaw says what happened to the husband and wife is even more terrible considering where it happened.

“Massachusetts is really kind of the birthplace of this insistence,” he points out, “that became a constitutional rule that says when the government wants to get inside your house, and when it wants to cart you away, when it wants to take you into its custody, it has to go to a judge first.”