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Family Wants State to Cover Legal Fees in Child Welfare Case

Family Wants State to Cover Legal Fees in Child Welfare Case



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Layton family awarded just $2 in a federal civil rights lawsuit is now asking the state to cover their legal fees.

Connie and James Roska's case strengthened Utah parental rights and served a public purpose significant enough to warrant payment of fees, court papers filed this week by Steven C. Russell, the couple's attorney, state.

The Roska's legal fees total $536,000.

"(The Roska case) established for the first time that social workers must comply with the Fourth Amendment, or be held liable," Russell wrote. "Therefore, this case has a strong public purpose. Without this case, social workers would still be violating the rights of parents."

The Roskas sued Utah and case workers from the state's Division of Child and Family Services after the agency removed their son Rusty from their care without a court hearing in 1999 for alleged child abuse. He was returned after seven days.

Lawsuits filed by the family resulted in new DCFS policies and influenced changes in state laws.

A federal jury awarded the Roskas $2 in damages on July 2, one dollar for each parent.

Utah's attorney general's office said the state should not have to pay any legal fees because the Roskas rejected multiple settlement offers. Under federal court rules attorney's fees can be reduced if the jury award is less than a settlement offered prior to a trial.

"The idea behind it is, if we make an offer and you go to trial and get less than the offer, you didnt actually prevail," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Bates. "You're actually worse off, so we shouldnt have to pay fees (after) the date of the offer."

Court papers filed by Russell state the Roskas were offered settlements of $100,000 and $200,000 in 2006 and by law could recoup any earlier legal fees.

Bates said the Roskas were also offered a settlement in 2000.

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Information from: Standard-Examiner

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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