Ashley and Daniel Pardo are continuing to fight in the courts for their four-year-old son, Drake, to be returned home after he was removed by Child Protective Services (CPS) in June.
This week, the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas denied the petition for a writ of mandamus filed for the Pardo family. The court’s opinion stated, “After reviewing the petition and mandamus record, we conclude relators have not shown they are entitled to the relief requested.” The opinion did not include any further elaboration on the reasoning behind their decision.
With the recent ruling, the family’s lawyers have said that they plan to file a petition for mandamus with the Texas Supreme Court.
In one reply that the Pardo’s lawyers submitted to the court, they stated, “Logically, a person cannot prove a negative (what did not happen; what psychological condition they do not have), which is why in the U.S. legal system the accusing party is burdened with proving what did happen. The trial court’s order invokes a guilty-until-proven-innocent paradigm, and equates ‘failure to cooperate’ in unfounded, intrusive investigations with an ‘emergency’ unless and until the parents prove there is no emergency.”
If the appellate court had ruled differently, it could have overruled the decision of the trial court that granted CPS custody of Drake. As it stands, though, CPS will maintain temporary managing conservatorship of the child for the foreseeable future.
Drake was placed in a foster home, though CPS is supposed to be conducting a home study for a potential placement with a relative or fictive kin.
CPS has accused the Pardo family of medical child abuse, arguing that they have sought unnecessary medical treatment from doctors for the surgical placement of a feeding tube.
The child abuse pediatrician who initially brought the complaints to CPS wanted Drake to be admitted to the hospital on June 10 to be evaluated so that they could determine if the parents were seeking unnecessary help or not.
The CPS caseworker came in contact with the family on June 7, but did not tell them about the meeting that the doctor wanted.
In the first court hearing, the caseworker said she did not tell the family about the meeting because the family’s lawyer, Chris Branson, told her to contact him for everything instead of the family directly.
However, Branson did not begin representing the family until June 11, the day after the meeting at the hospital was supposed to happen.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation highlighted this inconsistency in an amicus brief filed with the appellate court in support of the family.
“By failing to provide the Pardos or their attorney with the allegations and by withholding critical information on the purpose of the requested June 10, 2019 meeting,” the brief stated, “DFPS not only violated Texas and federal law, it created a classic Catch 22 situation that made it impossible for the Pardos to cooperate with the investigation and then used that subsequent ‘lack of cooperation’ against them as justification for obtaining an emergency order for the removal of K.D.P.”
A considerable number of influential leaders signed their support of the amicus briefs including two state senators, eight state representatives, and a number of presidents and directors of various organizations in the state.
On Friday, August 9, there was a CPS status hearing for the Pardo case. The scope of this hearing was narrowed to a focus on a family service plan, which is supposed to be developed jointly between CPS and the parents, according to the DFPS policy handbook.
The caseworker who testified at the status hearing said that she compiled the service plan on July 17 and gave it to the family at the end of a permanency hearing on July 23. She admitted that the process of creating the service plan violated DFPS policy, since the family was not included in its formation.
Judge Tracy Gray, who approved CPS’s request for an emergency court order to remove Drake in June, presided over the hearing. Given its limited scope, her decision was viewed as favorable toward the Pardos.
She ruled that no service plan would be approved until after a psychological evaluation of Ashley and Daniel, and stressed that a new plan would need to be created jointly. Moreover, Judge Gray repeatedly emphasized her desire to see the whole case move quickly.
The Pardos lawyers are expected to file the new petition next week.
A detailed analysis compiled by The Texan of the accusations of medical child abuse and the allegations against CPS can be found here.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.