The Department of Social Services balked at obeying a court order in the state's failed prosecution of foster care whistleblowers Brandon Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab in late 2012–early 2013. Now some judges seem to be getting in the act.
The Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes and three Lakota parents are suing state and local officials over alleged violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act in South Dakota's placement of American Indian children in foster care. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken ruled that the plaintiffs are entitled to custody hearing transcripts to help make their case. Four South Dakota circuit court judges and one retired judge are refusing to order the release of those transcripts:
Presiding Seventh Circuit Judge Jeff Davis has signed the order authorizing transcripts of hearings he supervised. But the attorney representing the other judges has said his clients will not sign orders releasing transcripts of their hearings, according to the court documents.
On Monday, the plaintiffs' attorneys filed a motion asking Viken to compel the judges or Davis to sign the transcript orders. Davis has refused to sign the transcript orders for the other judges, including Thorstenson, who left the bench a year ago.
Viken responded to the motion to compel by ordering the defendants to respond to the motion by March 28. Viken also gave the judges the same deadline to explain their reasons for not signing the orders [Andrea Cook, "Circuit Judges Accused of Ignoring Federal Judge's Order in Suit over Native Children Custody Hearings," Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.19].
I know judges can awfully owly about being bossed around in their own courtrooms. But when a federal judge says, "Do this," a state judge with respect for the judicial system ought to say, "Yes, sir!" Either these five judges have some pretty solid privacy arguments to make on behalf of children, or they are running interference for the state Department of Social Services against American Indian plaintiffs trying to protect their children and their tribe abuses by the state.