A quora poster asked:
"What EXACTLY is prima facie evidence in a child dependency case?"
The term “prima facie” means “upon first impression”. The Court’s first impression of the case will stand, unless somebody proves otherwise.
In a Dependency (aka Child Welfare) case, lawmakers across the U.S. have imposed a “guilty until proven innocent” legal framework. California has a particularly totalitarian structure, in which a child can be seized by County social workers upon allegations alone.
Once the child is “in the system”, a top-secret 3-part “trial” ensues, which can last from a few months to several years, and which never provides even the possibility of a jury.
Jurisdictional Trial - The Judge considers the allegations, to determine whether the Dependency Court properly has jurisdiction to hear the case. This phase typically takes the form of the judge reading a “report” prepared by social workers, and containing statements by the social workers, or health care providers, or teachers, or law enforcement officers. The “report” is automatically admissible as evidence (despite it being hearsay by definition, more on 6th Amendment violations below). In a proper legal proceeding, the court must find jurisdiction before making any orders. But in Child Welfare, the Court system can seize the child and make all sorts of orders before even determining that it has jurisdiction to do anything. This is completely contrary to Anglo-American law, and how anybody considers this constitutional is anybody’s guess.
Dispositional Trial - Once the Court finds jurisdiction (and they almost always do), the next phase is disposition, where it will be decided what the (more-or-less) permanent orders will be. A “reunification” plan is put forward, which generally includes an offer for the accused parent to sign what amounts to a guilty plea. Clever, no? Will the child be placed into foster care (if they haven’t already been)? Does the parent get any visitation at all? During the disposition phase, children are often placed in a series of group homes, where prostitution and drug use is common. It is also very common for children to be diagnosed with a mental illness and medicated, which is a great cash-cow for the County agencies, who get federal money through Title IV of the Social Security Act for each diagnosis, after getting money for each child seized.
Termination of Parental Rights (“TPR”) - The child is put up for adoption, and the parent disallowed from ever seeing them again.
Dependency Court proceedings are top secret, supposedly to protect the privacy of the children. In reality, the Court is concealing the utterly illegal nature of the entire sham.
Among many other unconscionable features, California (and most States) have what I term the “Accusatory Hearsay Exception” law. In California, it is found at Welfare and Institutions Code § 355. Deemed automatically admissible evidence is:
A social study prepared by the petitioning agency, and hearsay evidence contained in it, is admissible and constitutes competent evidence upon which a finding of jurisdiction pursuant to Section 300 may be based, to the extent allowed by subdivision (c)…
[WIC § 355(b)]
Did you catch that? The “study” is automatically admissible, even though it is hearsay. Hearsay is an out-court-statement offered for its truth. The reason we have the hearsay rule is in the 6th Amendment right to confront your accuser. The accused person must have the right to cross-examine whoever is bringing these allegations. There is no such right in Dependency Court, but that’s OK. We’re only talking about the government taking your kids away. No big deal, right?
Did you catch the other part of § 355, that says that whatever is in the report is “competent” evidence? That’s legal jargon for “it becomes the truth”. OK? The rest of § 355 explains that it applies to statements by social workers, medical providers, teachers and peace officers.
So the government can prepare a report that is a pack of lies, which pack of lies automatically is admissible and automatically accepted as the truth. There is no right to put the social workers, or medical providers, or teachers or peace officers on the witness stand to cross examine them. And there is no right to present any of this to the jury, because there is no jury.
Assuming you recognize the legitimacy of the government at all (I don’t), the Accusatory Hearsay Exception is unconstitutional. The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that:
"in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against [her]."
[U.S. Const., Amend VI]
In Mattox v. United States, 156 U.S. 237 (1895), the Supreme Court enunciated the three fundamental purposes that the Confrontation Clause was meant to serve:
To ensure that witnesses would testify under oath and understand the serious nature of the trial process;
To allow the accused to cross-examine witnesses who testify against [her]; and
To allow [the trier-of-fact] to assess the credibility of a witness by observing that witness’s behavior.
Dependency Court contains no such guarantee that the accusers understand the serious nature of the trial process, no ability to cross examine the accusers, and no chance to assess the credibility of these accusers.
The lack of a jury trial also violates the Sixth Amendment. Dependency Court in the U.S. is the very essence of Show Trial, while Child Protective Services in every U.S. County has become nothing less and nothing more than a child trafficking racket.