In Southerland v. City of New York, 07-4449-cv (L), a father (Sonny B. Southerland Sr.) of a large family had his children forcibly removed from his home and his care, after the ACS (New York’s Child Protective Services) worker filed a petition using case reference of children with other names, in May 1997. Knowing that with immunity, case worker Timothy Woo would probably not get caught for reusing a template of old petitions, he simply filed and remove the children from the home. The 27th district court concluded that Woo was entitled to qualified immunity with respect to all of the claims against him. The United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit decided on June 10, 2011 that indeed, the caseworker is not granted immunity, see published brief.
In a classic example of a typical custody case, the sixteen year old daughter claimed to have been sexually abused by her father, which she later retracted as a lie. It is not unusual for traumatised confused children to say stories to get what they want in a custody case. So much more so if they admit that a parent told them what to say, as was true in this case.
On March 14, 2007, Southerland made a pro se submission to the district court requesting that the court take judicial notice of a number of documents, including a declaration by Ciara Manning that had been sworn on April 20, 2002. In that declaration, Ciara stated that Southerland had never molested or abused her in any way and that the statements she made previously to Woo and to the Family Court to that effect were false.
Amongst the forty defendants in the various lawsuits, Mr. Sutherland sued Rudy Guliani (Southerland v. Giuliani, 4 F. App’x 25 33, 36 (2d Cir. 2001)), and now, the City of New York, for punitive damages for denial of his constitutional rights for unlawful and unconstitutional removal of the children into state custody of the children.
In an interview with Sonny, CALA has had an opportunity to meet this awe inspiring individual. With unshaken faith in God, Sonny says, “you have to believe”. Sonny also recounted how the city operates to keep cases like his off the records. From the numerous survivors that have reached out to him for inspiration and empowered, all tell similar stories of threats and intimidations, meant to ostracize and force the person to fold. A trend seems to exist with denial of medicaid, food stamps, welfare, and social security benefits. All these threats are strategically designed to terrify the litigant, and most often, it works. A person suing the city will suddenly find their careers destroyed, their reputation hurt, and their circle of friends diminished to nothing.
Few people have the stamina to survive on thin air and litigate until they see justice. But for those who do make it, the Coalition serves to reach out to those who need a pat on their back, a warm smiling, and words to validate their battle.
See Sonny on his show advocating for people’s rights, on “ACS Domestic Terrorism pt. 2”, a video episode exploring NY issues on how contract agency and top level ACS official took money from foster children, and adoption scheme by former fostermon who abused the adopted children and some still missing to this day.