Texas Child Protective Services (“CPS”), a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (“DFPS”), does not like to provide answers or information about their cases. Despite a series of reforms to increase transparency in CPS investigations and legal cases, CPS routinely fails to notify parents, relatives, and foster parents of their rights to attend hearings, record interviews, or refuse to cooperate with various demands. The result is that many Texas families, siblings, grandparents, parents, and foster parents are often left in the dark about the welfare of their loved ones and forced to fight blind in court.
For those reasons, the Texas legislature clarified the law, beginning Sept. 1, 2021, to make CPS subject to the same sanctions as private lawyers who fail to disclose legally required information. These sanctions include monetary fines, attorney’s fees for lawyers who go to court to compel discovery of information in CPS cases, and the so-called “death penalty” sanction of striking CPS’ pleadings and dismissing their case.
These sanctions apply where CPS lawyers request formal, written “discovery.” Discovery is the general legal process used to obtain evidence and information in a legal case. In Texas CPS cases, discovery falls into different categories, such as interrogatories, or questions about CPS arguments and legal positions, or “production,” or demands for specific categories of documents, including the CPS file. Prior to Sept. 1, 2021, many Texas judges refused to sanction CPS for hiding discovery.
After the law changed, Joseph Hoelscher, Managing Attorney of HGC Law Firm in San Antonio, became the first CPS lawyer in Texas to successfully use the new law to sanction CPS for failing to disclose evidence. In three separate legal actions, Hoelscher compelled CPS to respond to his requests for discovery and was twice awarded attorney’s fees. DFPS was forced, under threat of contempt of court, to register Hoelscher as a vendor for the State of Texas and pay his fees of $1,000 and $5,000 in two separate actions.
Those awards only covered Hoelscher’s fees for compelling discovery but established a strong legal precedent allowing CPS to be held accountable and led to the creation of the administrative process through which private lawyers can recover their fees or other monetary sanctions from CPS. As a result of good law from the Texas legislature and aggressive lawyering by an experienced San Antonio CPS attorney, families facing CPS in court now have a clear way to force CPS to tell the truth and punish CPS when it hides evidence. Reach out to an experienced CPS lawyer at Hoelscher Gebbia PLLC, by calling (210) 222-9132 or filling out our form online.