On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, a Federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Minnesota mother whose parental rights were violated by a Minnesota school system, and state and county agencies. Anmarie Calgaro, represented by the Thomas More Society in United States District Court, District of Minnesota, was told that, while she “continues to have sole physical and joint legal custody” of her child, those who refused to respect her parental rights in regard to her son, “cannot be held liable” in this case because they did not act “under color of state law.”
In Anmarie Calgaro v. St. Louis County, et al, Thomas More Society Special Counsel Erick Kaardal charged that Calgaro’s parental rights were repeatedly usurped by St. Louis County, St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Director, Fairview Health Services, Park Nicollet Health Services, St. Louis County School District, and the Principal of the Cherry School.
United States District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson wrote that, although Calgaro’s parental rights over her minor son “remain intact,” she has no standing to sue for their violation. This despite the fact that the boy was advised by defendants in the suit that he was emancipated, and was subsequently provided with medical treatment for a sex change from male to female and prescribed narcotics. Calgaro was also denied access to his medical and school records and was refused any input into her son’s educational decision-making.
The judge’s decision bore the following footnote, “Although referred to as J.D.K. in Calgaro’s Complaint, the Court uses the name, initials, and pronouns consistent with E.J.K.’s female gender identity.”
Magnuson’s use of the initials for the boy’s adopted female name is ironic, as the 17 year old was twice denied a name change by St. Louis County District Court, where the judge noted, “the lack of any Minnesota trial court adjudication relative to emancipation.”
The Memorandum and Order itemized Magnuson’s additional reasons for dismissing Calgaro’s case, which included:
- Fairview and Park Nicollet, the sex change providers, cannot be held liable in this case “because they did not act under color of state law” and were not “willful participant[s] in joint activity with the state.”
- The deprivation of Calgaro’s parental rights by the School District was not caused by any School policy or custom. He noted that it is only when “execution of a government’s policy or custom…inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible.”
- Cherry School Principal Michael Johnson was entitled to qualified immunity, which applies unless his conduct “violated a clearly established constitutional right.”
- Calgaro “has failed to allege that a St. Louis County policy or custom deprived her of her parental rights without due process…It is the policy of the state of Minnesota, rather than St. Louis County, that allegedly deprived Calgaro of her constitutionally protected parental rights without due process.”
Kaardal remarked, “People left and right in Minnesota agree that emancipation procedures need to be put into a statute so this confusion over parental rights never happens again. The same due process rights Ms. Calgaro pursues are taken for granted in marital dissolution, child custody and child protection proceedings. Unfortunately, the federal court’s decision has added to, not lessened, the legal confusion.”
“In the meantime,” he added, “Anmarie Calgaro is living a parent’s worst nightmare. Her minor child has been piloted by third parties through a life-changing, permanent body altering process by organizations that have no legal authority over him, and that have denied his own mother access.”
Read the Memorandum and Order issued by United States District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson in Anmarie Calgaro v. St. Louis County, et al, on May 23, 2017, here.
The Thomas More Society plans to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.