(also known as Brown v. Chiles, Brown v. Towey, and Brown v. Feaver)
FILE NO., COURT, AND DATE FILED
91-54813 (28) (Fla. Cir. Ct., Dade County, Dec. 6, 1991)
726 So.2d 322 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999), rev. denied, 744 So.2d 452 (1999)
CLEARINGHOUSE REVIEW NO.
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS
Florida Legal Services
3000 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 450
Miami, FL 33137
Fax: (305) 576-9664
American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU of Florida
4500 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 340
Miami, FL 33137
University of Miami School of Law
Children and Youth Clinic
1311 Miller Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146
Fax: (305) 284-4384
This action challenged the failure of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) (now called the Department of Children and Families) to prevent the removal of children from their families or to reunite families, where homelessness was a primary factor resulting in HRS custody.
Plaintiff is the great-aunt and temporary legal guardian of four children. After being awarded temporary custody of the children, she was forced to move from her condemned apartment. She alleged that HRS refused to help her locate suitable, affordable replacement housing, while at the same time threatening to remove the children from her custody for failure to provide a home. Plaintiff claimed that HRS violated the state's Juvenile Justice Act; Title IV-E; and the equal protection, family integrity, and privacy rights guaranteed by the Florida and U.S. Constitutions.
HISTORY AND STATUS
In December 1991, defendants agreed to provide the named plaintiff with housing assistance through the use of flexible funds. In May 1992, the court denied defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, rejecting arguments that plaintiffs' federal claims were precluded by Suter and that Florida law does not entitle plaintiffs to housing assistance.
In February 1993, plaintiffs amended their complaint to include class action allegations, which the court granted on October 6, 1993. On December 27, 1997, ruling on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court entered an order denying plaintiffs' motion and granting defendant's motion. The trial court concluded that plaintiffs had neither a private right of action under Title IV-E, nor a private right of action to obtain housing or housing-related services under Florida law.
Plaintiffs appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal. The appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court. In affirming the decision, the court held that the services to be offered are within the discretion of the Department. The court further held that, pursuant to the separation of powers doctrine, dependency courts could not order housing-related services to reunify the family. Finally, the court held that, because of the impact on Departmental resources, a dependency court could not order the provision of specific services.
Plaintiffs sought review in the Florida Supreme Court, but the court denied the petition.