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Fifth Circuit Unanimously Denies the State’s Mandamus Petition in Texas Foster Care Case

Earlier this year, the Hon. Janis Graham Jack (S.D. Tex.) appointed two Special Masters to assist with crafting and implementing remedies for the structural deficiencies that exist in the Texas foster care system. The Court appointed Kevin Ryan, who has managed system reform as Commissioner of New Jersey’s child welfare agency and as a court-appointed monitor in other states implementing child welfare reforms under federal court oversight, and Prof. Francis McGovern, who has extensive experience as a court-appointed special master in ground-breaking cases, including for institutional reform. The Special Masters are to develop and propose an implementation plan for remedying the system’s problems.

The State immediately filed a mandamus petition and requested a stay of the six-month work process, arguing that the Court had abused its discretion in appointing the Special Masters and was applying the wrong constitutional standard.

On July 7, the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling finding that the State failed to demonstrate a “clear and indisputable” entitlement to relief, clearing the way for the Special Masters to complete their work on a proposed implementation plan for the Court to consider in issuing a final order for a permanent injunction to fix the broken foster care system. The Fifth Circuit panel consisted of Judges Dennis, Owen, and Costa. At this point, the Special Masters are more than halfway through this court-directed process.

Our appellate team includes Reagan Simpson, Paul Yetter, Lonny Hoffman and Christian Ward. The ruling is further culmination of an 11-year effort by an amazing team of nonprofit and private lawyers led by Yetter Coleman to protect and improve the lives of Texas foster children.