A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

U.S. District Court says CHFS social workers have no qualified immunity in Nikkie Holliday’s lawsuit


By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

As “qualified immunity” for police and other public employees comes to the forefront nationally, the practice as it applies to state social workers has been dealt another blow in the U.S. District Court in Covington by Senior Judge William Bertlesman.

The judge has ruled in the case of Maureen ‘Nikkie’ Holliday versus the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services social workers who imposed a restrictive “Prevention Plan” the single mom was coerced into signing. It required her to have strictly supervised contact with her four-year-old daughter. The threatened penalty was foster care for her child.

Bertleman has ruled that Holliday’s due process claims and her emotional distress claims are legitimate and that the social workers are not entitled to qualified immunity.

Nikkie Holliday and her daughter (Photo provided)

Holliday is a single mother and an army combat veteran. She worked two jobs and was going to school at the time of her unfortunate experience with CHFS, so her daughter was enrolled in a Florence daycare center. She has since graduated from the University of Cincinnati (in social work) and is working with a homeless veterans’ group.

Her daughter had a bruise on her buttocks that she said she got when another child at the daycare bit her. When the daycare was alerted to the bite, they involved the Cabinet and social worker Alecia Leigh took charge and threatened to take the daughter into custody on the spot if Holliday did not sign the Prevention Plan agreement. She signed under duress.

As required, Holliday took her daughter to Children’s Hospital to be examined and the discharge instructions read:

“AH (the child) was seen and evaluated by the emergency department. She explained that she was ‘bitten on the butt’ by her friend Lola. My exam was consistent with bite marks on both butt cheeks. The marks were simply minor bruises and no puncture marks. There were no other injuries noted. AH otherwise appears to be a healthy and happy child. Images were taken for her medical record.”

Despite this report, Holliday endured several months under the “Prevention Plan’s” restrictions while the Cabinet proceeded to question Holliday’s friends, family and associates and questioned two young cousins at school. Holliday and her daughter lived in three homes over that period, were denied their normal family support system — and Holliday feared losing her jobs and falling behind in school.

Proud daughter and her mom, the graduate.

On December 27, 2016, Leigh and her supervisor Danielle Sneed decided to close the case as “unsubstantiated” though Holliday was not notified until January 13, 2017.

Holliday’s attorney Paul Hill filed suit against Alecia Leigh, Danielle Sneed and ‘Jane Does(s),’ supervisors and others in the CHFS.

Bertlesman writes in his opinion that “there was no compelling purpose to impose restrictions on Holliday,” that Leigh misrepresented her legal authority, and that Sneed acquiesced to the alleged deprivation of Holliday’s constitutional rights.

“Qualified official immunity applies to the negligent performance by a public officer or employee of (1) discretionary acts or functions, i.e., those involving the exercise of discretion and judgment, or personal deliberation, decision, and judgment; (2) in good faith; and (3) within the scope of the employee’s authority. . .

“Given that. . the defendant’s actions violated a clearly established constitutional right, defendants are not entitled to state-law qualified immunity. . .”

Bertlesman denied the social workers’ claims related to Holliday’s “substantive and procedural due process claims,” as well as her IIED (intentional infliction of emotional distress) claim.

The decision means that the lawsuit can proceed to a jury trial.

This is the second case in which Bertlesman has denied qualified immunity. His judgment in the case of Schulkers v. Kammer which was upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also found for Holly and Dave Schulkers who had a similar case against the Cabinet and its social workers.

Read Judge Bertlemans’ ruling in full here.

See the NKyTribune’s earlier story about Holliday and her lawsuit here.

See the NKyTribune’s story about the Schulkers’ case here.


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4 Comments

  1. Lynn says:

    Free the American Families being abused by the tyrannical CPS/FamilyCourt system.

    Thank you, NKYTribune, for covering these stories!

    • Gilbert Rodriguez says:

      Yes free the American Families being abused by the tyrannical Family Court’s and CPS’s Systems!

  2. Lisa says:

    These criminals hide under the Color Of Law so this is a great vistory but too much trauma has been endured by the FRAUD RACKETEERING scheme. Due process is always needed in family and juvenile court.

  3. Gilbert Rodriguez says:

    Correct these criminals hide under the Color Of Law and it is a great victory but there is far too much trauma and offensive abuse being endured and suffered because of the Executive and Judicial Branches of Governments’ fraudulent malicious oppression racketeering schemes.

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