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Judge Blocks Bureaucrats from Putting Tucson Mom’s Name on Government Blacklist…For Now

August 24, 2022

An Arizona judge this morning ruled in favor of Tucson-area mom Sarra L., whom the Goldwater Institute and our friends at Pacific Legal Foundation are representing in a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Child Safety (DCS).

In November 2020, Sarra allowed her 7-year-old son and his 5-year-old friend to play in a city park for a half hour while she went into the grocery store. She knew the playground well—she had played there as a child, herself—and she saw a couple of friends at the park who could keep an eye on the boys. But DCS didn’t care. It decided to put Sarra’s name on its “Central Registry”—a government-run blacklist for child abusers—which would bar her from working or even volunteering in any capacity that involves children. That would be devastating for Sarra, who for years has volunteered to help with refugee children. But in today’s motion, we asked the court to at least keep Sarra’s name off the registry until the court rules on whether DCS’s actions are constitutional.

It’s a major question because under Arizona law, the Department is allowed to put someone’s name on the registry based simply on “probable cause”—a phrase that’s basically synonymous with suspicion. That’s far below the “reasonable doubt” rule that criminal courts use—and it’s even less than the “preponderance of evidence” standard uses in civil cases. The “probable cause” standard is what courts use to issue search warrants, because they merely suspect someone committed a crime. But in Arizona, you can have your name placed on a state-run “do not hire” list for twenty-five years based on mere suspicion.

That’s unconstitutional, and courts in several other states have already declared it invalid. Citing those cases, the judge in today’s case issued an order blocking the Department from blacklisting Sarra—at least until the court can decide whether the state’s laws are constitutional. It’s a crucial first step toward resolving this case.

You can learn more about how we’re protecting Sarra’s due process rights here.

Timothy Sandefur is the Vice President for Legal Affairs at the Goldwater Institute.



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