Hearing scheduled in civil suit against Ward County Social Services

A hearing has been scheduled Aug. 28 on the state’s motion to continue a civil trial against Ward County Social Services.

The trial had originally been scheduled to begin Aug. 28. The state said in its motion that it needs more time for arguments that Judge Todd Cresap should immediately rule in its favor.

Shanika Lister filed suit three years ago against North Central Human Services Center, Ward County Social Services, and social workers Nicci Domres and Sandra Richter after her newborn daughter was briefly taken into foster care in Minot when Lister had a false positive test for methamphetamine. The baby had traces of marijuana in her system. But Lister is a practicing Rastafarian and her use of marijuana during her pregnancy is a protected religious practice under state law. The baby was returned to her parents about a week later, but the state placed Lister’s name on the child abuse registry after the North Central Human Services director deemed that services were required because the baby was born with drugs in her system.

The state argues that Social Services and individual social workers have immunity under state law and that the then director had discretion to place Lister’s name on the registry. Lister disputes many of the facts that the state claimed were undisputed. Relatives of Lister and the baby’s father submitted sworn affidavits to the court asserting that Social Services never contacted them before the baby was put in foster care and all of them would have been willing to come to North Dakota to take care of the baby. Lister also said in an affidavit that she has had up to eight panic attacks a week since the incident, is afraid to leave her children alone for fear that Social Services will take them, and has had to seek treatment.

– Andrea Johnson