Wednesday, July 16, 2008

child abuse - expungement - discretionary authority of DPW

G.M. v. DPW - Commonwealth Court - July 16, 2008

DPW did not act in bad faith, fraudulently, capriciously or otherwise abuse its power in rejecting petitioner's 2007 petition alleging that there was good cause to expunge a founded report of child abuse which took place in 1987. A court order was entered at that time, finding that petitioner had sexually abused his daughter. There was no appeal from that finding.

Petitioner alleged that there was good cause for his record to be expunged because he was rehabilitated. He said that (1) he had undergone medical and psychiatric treatment and therapy; (2) he deeply regretted his actions; (3) at the time of the abuse, he was going through a divorce, but he now is in a stable relationship; (4) he has rebuilt his relationship with his daughter; (5) he currently is enrolled in nursing school; and (6) the founded child abuse report harmed his chances of obtaining gainful employment

The Law provides that the DPW Secretary may amend or expunge any record at any time upon good cause shown and notice to the appropriate subjects of the report. 23 Pa. C.S. §6341(a)(1). This section grants the Secretary the discretionary authority to amend any record upon good cause shown. J.C. v. Department of Public Welfare, 720 A.2d 193 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1998). Our courts will not review the actions of government bodies or administrative tribunals involving the exercise of discretion in the absence of bad faith, fraud, capricious action or abuse of power, which did not exist here.

The trial court’s orders were presumptive evidence that the child abuse report was accurate, and petitioner did not dispute the finding of abuse.