The Eighth Circuit recently affirmed the Rule 12 dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a father, his three children, and an association against a Minnesota county, its social-services agency, and 8th Circuit Spotlightseveral state and county officials. The case, Mitchell v. Dakota County Social Services, No. 19-1419 (8th Cir. May 19, 2020), involves troubling factual allegations, including that the county’s child-abuse investigation was motivated by racial animus, which must be taken as true at the motion-to-dismiss stage. Ultimately, the Eighth Circuit’s decision reflects that the removal of the children from their father’s custody was not unlawful given the evidence of physical harm to the children and the government’s “compelling interest in protecting minor children, especially when it is necessary to protect them from their parents.” Mitchell, slip op. at 7 (citing Dornheim v. Sholes, 430 F.3d 919, 925-26 (8th Cir. 2005)).

The case arises from a babysitter’s call to law enforcement in February 2014. The babysitter had been watching two of plaintiff Dwight Mitchell’s three children (the eldest was away at school in another state). The babysitter called police at the request of the middle child to report that Mitchell had used corporal punishment on the child. The child told the responding police officers that his father had beaten him with a belt and punched him multiple times in the hip. The child’s younger brother told the police that their father had hit him recently with a belt, too. The officers saw multiple bruises on both children’s bodies.

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