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Court blocks $100K a day fine for Texas' foster care failures

The Earle Cabell Federal Building that houses the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in downtown Dallas.
Yfat Yossifor
Texas was found in contempt Monday for violating two of the court's orders in its long-running foster litigation.

A federal appeals court has stayed a $100,000 a day fine against the State of Texas.

Texas was found in contempt Monday by U.S. District Judge Janis Jack for violating two of the court's orders in its long-running foster litigation.

Both court orders deal with the quality and expediency of state investigations of abuse and neglect claims.

Specifically, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) was fined over the performance of Provider Investigations — a unit charged with investigating abuse and neglect in facilities that house people with intellectual disabilities.

The state appealed and asked for a stay in the case to avoid the accruing fines.

Jack denied the stay. But on Wednesday, it was granted by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The fines and further district court proceedings have been paused for the moment.

"This is a temporary pause in the contempt order, so the parties can finish briefing and the appeals court can decide the state's motion for a full stay of the order. In the meantime, the state can quickly stop the fines if it simply certifies that its investigations are timely and safe,” said Paul Yetter, attorney for current and former foster youth.

Lawyers for the state are also angling to nullify much of the district court's oversight in the case that dates back to 2011.

Allyson Ho, who is leading the state's defense in the federal litigation, is married to a justice on the 5th Circuit. It doesn't appear that 5th Circuit Justice James Ho ruled in the matter.

Plaintiffs have six days to file a response.

Copyright 2024 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Paul Flahive is the technology and entrepreneurship reporter for Texas Public Radio. He has worked in public media across the country, from Iowa City and Chicago to Anchorage and San Antonio.
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