4/24/09 – Lawyers file opposing motions in Alamo case

Texarkana Gazette
April 24, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Lawyers file opposing motions in Alamo case

Lawyers representing administrators with the Arkansas Department of Human Services and one representing Tony Alamo Christian Ministries filed opposing motions this week in a civil lawsuit filed by the church.

Monday, the DHS defendants filed a motion asking that certain documents dealing with juveniles be sealed to protect their identities and confidential health records. Thursday, Phillip Kuhn, the Florida attorney representing the church and two Alamo-following fathers whose children are in state custody, filed a motion accusing the defendants of wanting the records sealed so they can conduct court in secret.

The suit was filed April 9 in the Western District of Arkansas by the embattled church and two fathers, Greg Seago and Bert Krantz. It alleges harassment and civil rights violations by DHS Director John Selig, Miller County DHS Administrator Steve Mason and Fort Smith Administrator Gwen Lovelace.

The suit requests an injunction preventing the removal of more children. It also asks that the defendants petition state courts in Miller County to remove requirements that Krantz and Seago sever residential, economic and employment ties with the church if they want their children returned.

“Secret proceedings are the first symptom of power’s fatal disease that slowly corrupts and eventually destroys the health of a free society,” Kuhn’s motion said. “Frankly, there has already been too much officially imposed secrecy in the history of the Alamo litigation.”

DHS’ motion asks that records dealing with the foster care cases of the children and with their health, as ordered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, be kept under seal.

“We are not interested in having all of the documents sealed,” said DHS Director of Communications Julie Munsell. “What we want sealed is only what would be sealed under existing law. We have a duty governed by law to keep certain information about children confidential.”

In the past, videos of confidential interviews with the seized kids at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Texarkana were released by parents and placed on the Internet along with their names and copies of court documents.

Kuhn’s motion promises to protect the children’s privacy.

“All references to the identity and location of the children involved will be redacted and stricken from any record produced and will remain undisclosed in the testimony,” Kuhn’s motion said. “The plaintiffs will jealously guard the anonymity of the children involved by every means necessary.”

Kuhn’s motion also points out that the defense lawyers, James Brader and Carmen Mosley-Sims of the DHS office of general counsel in Little Rock, did not confer with Kuhn before filing their motion to seal records and for a qualified protective order.

Kuhn argues that the defendants should have tried to come to an agreement regarding the records in question before filing the motion according to the court’s local rules.

“The way they ignored this rule is similar to the way they ignore the parents’ right to choose the care, custody and control of their children,” Cheryl Barnes of CPS Watch Legal Team said in a press release. “They assume everyone will make the wrong decision if they’re not telling them what to do.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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