ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Hundreds of people turned out at federal court in St. Paul Tuesday morning to push for an overhaul of Minnesota child protection laws.
The group Stop Child Protection Services from Legally Kidnapping Children accuses the current law of treating parents like criminals and harming children more than it helps. The lawsuit asks for a jury trial to prove Minnesota child protection law is unconstitutional and over-reaching.
“Our association has grown to almost 5,000 members in less than four months,” said Dwight Mitchell, the group organizer.
Parents and grandparents gathered before a hearing to challenge Minnesota child protection law in the hopes that they can bring change.
“You can’t tell me that 5,000 parents have come forward mysteriously and something is not wrong with our system,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell had his own battle with child protection after he lost custody of his son for two years because of spankings. That case began the fight and a foundation that led to a civil rights lawsuit filed in April, which is finally getting a hearing.
“That the Minnesota statutes for child protection have an unconstitutionally low standard for seizing children,” said Erick Kaardal, the attorney representing the parents.
Kaardal argued that laws terminating parental rights are too vague, unconstitutional and violate due process and equal protection rights.
An attorney for the state told the judge this is a “classic kitchen sink complaint” naming every possible complaint “in the hopes that something sticks.” The attorney is requesting all complaints be dismissed.
“We’re furious,” said Kaardal. “The State of Minnesota, the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Human Services took the position that these people are zeros.”
“I haven’t seen my kids in four years,” said Leanna Davis of Clearwater, Minn.
Parents say they feel this is a system in which they’re considered guilty until they can prove their innocence. Some say they find it’s a hole they can never climb out of.
“They told me I was an unfit mom and the judge told me to my face that I was a drama mom and a fun mom,” said Davis.
The case is drawing attention nationwide, with at least one woman traveling from New York to attend the proceedings. Some say they believe “legal kidnappings” could be the next civil rights issue.
“This case could set a precedent,” said Joyce McMillan of New York City. “This is happening all across the United States, so when you hear of something so big happening, you want to be a part. You want to watch it unfold.”
There was no ruling Tuesday. The judge is taking it under advisement with a decision expected sometime in the next few months.