Written by Jennifer Vigil
The City of Coronado is in the midst of a court battle between a local family and San Diego County welfare officials, who two parents accuse of placing their children in foster care for nearly a year because of their use of medical marijuana.
Gerald Singleton of Encinitas is one of three attorneys representing Lewis and Taylor in the suit.
The couple, Michael Lewis and Lauren Taylor, have sued Coronado, two city police officers, the county and seven Health and Human Services department specialists, accusing them of false imprisonment, battery, negligence and civil rights violations, according to a lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court this month.
The lawsuit stems from an Aug. 8, 2011 incident, when county officials, accompanied by two Coronado officers, removed two boys, then 4 and 2, from Lewis' and Taylor's home and placed them in the Polinsky Children's Center in Clairemont Mesa.
They remained there for two weeks, according to the plaintiffs' allegations, due to the authorities pursuit of the family because of Lewis' marijuana possession.
The complaint notes that officers had visited the family three days prior and accepted that Lewis, who served in the Gulf War and deals with migraines, had a doctor's support to obtain medical marijuana.
County officials eventually also accused Lewis of being a forger and a drug dealer who suffered from mental illness, the lawsuit states. After court appearances, the children were formally placed in foster care in February, according to the suit, and not returned to their parents until Aug. 7, after nearly a year in protective custody.
The plaintiffs accuse county welfare officials of lying in juvenile court to justify the children's long-term removal from the home, disregarding evidence that Lewis' marijuana use was recommended by a physician and practiced away from the youngsters, and that Taylor did not use pot at all.
“Despite the fact that Lewis' use of marijuana was totally legal under California law, and despite the fact that all drug tests for Lauren Taylor were negative and there were no signs of abuse or neglect of the children, (Abigail) Joseph continued to lie to the juvenile court by making false statements calculated to lead the juvenile court to believe that Ms. Taylor used marijuana and that such use posed a danger to the children,” the complaint states.
Abigail Joseph is one of the county officials being sued. The Coronado officers named in the case are Robert Cline and Patrick O'Malley.
The complaint also states that the county ignored evidence “that the children were intelligent, well nourished, lived without abuse or neglect, and that the removal from their parents was significantly detrimental to them.”
They are seeking an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.