Published on: Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A women is convicted of child abuse after Alamosa County, Colo. social worker reports that she confessed. Woman denied confessing and presented evidence that social worker had lied in her notes about the alleged confession. After the conviction is overturned, the woman sues. Social worker: Qualified immunity! There's no earlier case that says social workers can't lie about confessions. Tenth Circuit: There isn't. And there doesn't need to be. “After all, some things are so obviously unlawful that they don’t require detailed explanation and sometimes the most obviously unlawful things happen so rarely that a case on point is itself an unusual thing.” Dissent: The social worker needed a specific case to know she couldn't fabricate evidence.

The case is O'Connell v. Alejo, et al., No. 20-1148 (10th Circ. Dec. 16, 2021).