City Desk

In CFSA Case, Nickles Plays Defense

This morning, D.C.'s Child and Family Services Agency was once again the subject of a U.S. District Court hearing. The issue before Judge Thomas F. Hogan: Whether to hold the city in contempt for violating his court order and failing to meet stipulated benchmarks.

The plaintiff's, Children's Rights, a New York-based advocacy law firm which specializes in exposing troubled child welfare agencies and turning them around, was in its element. The District's lawyers were no match for Children's Rights founder and executive director Marcia Lowry. While both sides disputed whether or not the agency met those benchmarks—with the city attorney lamely complaining that some of the benchmarks were too difficult to meet—Hogan seemed most annoyed with point No. 4 of his stipulated order. It stated that the city must consult with the assigned court monitor as well as Lowry's group during the selection of a new CFSA director.

Lowry had contended that Children's Rights was not consulted. Hogan stated from the bench that the city had "blatantly" failed to comply with this aspect of his court order.

This evening, Loose Lips (aka Mike DeBonis) reached AG Peter Nickles and asked him to comment on Hogan's statements. Let's just say Nickles argument was less than legalistic. His response was all about feelings.

Nickles: "I know that I personally consulted with both [Court Monitor] Judith Meltzer and plaintiff's counsel on the very same day. I asked, is this sufficient consultation?" Nickles says that Meltzer thought it was enough to meet the court order. Lowry disagreed.She said she was notified of Dr. Roque Gerald's selection the day before the official announcement was made.

"She said she was opposed, that [this] wasn't sufficient consultation," Nickles recalls. "There's no way of consulting in advance with the plaintiffs, because they don't agree with anything we're doing."

Hmm. Shouldn't you consult in advance with the plaintiffs because a federal judge ordered you to? How hard would it have been to notify Lowry a week prior to Gerald's appointment?

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