At the conclusion of a “show cause” hearing on Monday, October 8, Judge Michael Schneider issued a ruling that Harris County Child Protective Services (CPS) could have no further contact with the two children it had held in custody for three days. This was a nearly unprecedented victory for family rights in Texas.
But how did we get here?
Harris County CPS Violates Family Rights
Michael and Melissa Bright are a loving couple with two young children. When they brought their son to Texas Children’s Hospital in July 2018, they had no idea that their family rights would soon be in danger.
Texas Children’s Hospital has a track record of making bizarre referrals to CPS—most notably in the the case of Aniya Blu Vasquez, the four-month-old daughter of Anita Vasquez. A doctor at Texas Children’s Hospital gave Anita a vaccine that should not have been given to children under 10 years of age. The hospital placed the blame squarely on Anita’s shoulders and successfully persuaded a judge to revoke custody of her child.
The Harris County CPS is developing a reputation for pursuing these types of cases. In 2017, based on another call from Texas Children’s Hospital, they removed a 16-month-old baby from her parents.
Their reasoning was that the parents had traveled to Houston from Taiwan seeking medical care for their daughter, which led the hospital to believe that they were involved in human trafficking.
CPS Snatches the Bright’s Son Without Cause
Last July, in an unfortunate accident, the Brights’ five-month-old son fell out of a collapsible chair and injured his head. As any responsible parents would, they took him to the hospital to have him examined for any severe injuries. After the doctor examined the child and the family had left, Harris County CPS received a call from Texas Children’s Hospital.
What happened next?
Soon after, CPS paid a visit to the Brights’ home. Upon the advice of a family friend, Michael Bright recorded the entire encounter with CPS to have evidence if needed. Finding nothing, the social worker eventually left.
In a subsequent text conversation, the worker stated: “[We] did consult with legal [department] and we do not have grounds for a removal.”
Three weeks later, the worker went to court requesting an emergency removal. His request was granted, both children were removed and a “show cause” hearing was scheduled.
Judge Schneider’s Ruling a Victory for Family Rights
Monday, October 8, was much like any other day for Judge Schneider at first. That changed when the social worker testified in the Brights’ case. The caseworker walked up to the witness stand, was sworn in and was asked why he took the two children from the Bright family.
He invoked the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer.
Everyone in the room was surprised, especially two attorneys in the courtroom: Stephanie Proffitt and Dennis Slate. “For their main witness to get up and admit he potentially lied to have this child removed or had these children removed was shocking to me,” Slate said. According to Proffitt: “It was shocking; people laughed, people gasped.”
Judge Schneider had enough of this case. He ruled that CPS would return the children to their parents and would have no further contact with the family.
A hearing was scheduled not long after to determine whether CPS owed the Bright family any damages or attorney fees. Judge Schneider presided over the hearing and imposed $127,000 in sanctions, an almost unheard-of amount. He also ordered that CPS develop new training methods for its employees, particularly with regard to perjury and family law.
CPS Continues Harassing the Brights
During the sanctions hearing, new allegations were brought to light by attorneys Dennis Slate and Stephanie Proffitt. Proffitt claims that a Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HSCO) investigator contacted her with news about the Brights’ CPS case. The investigator informed her that as many as 10 CPS workers “up and down the food chain” had called him to request criminal charges against Melissa Bright.
Soon after these allegations surfaced, the HCSO stated that the investigator had only received three calls which just asked for status updates on his ongoing investigation.
Still, Proffitt maintains that her statement was true. “It just goes to show how CPS thinks they’re above the law because here they are in a court of law and the court tells them what you’ve done is improper and illegal,” Proffitt told the Houston Chronicle,“and then they turn around and to cover up what they’ve done try to go in the back door and get criminal charges against these parents.”
Who Is This Judge?
Judge Mike Schneider is a family law judge who has presided over the district court in Harris County since 2006. Prior to his appointment, he was the chief civil prosecutor in Harris County. He is a volunteer at Child Advocates, vice chair and secretary of the Harris County Juvenile Board and the founder of Harris County’s human trafficking court.
THSC commends Judge Mike Schneider for protecting families against the overreaching and sometimes abusive practices of CPS. We strive to advocate for families and this would not be possible without judges like Judge Schneider.
We believe that families have a God-given right to raise their children and that children should only be removed from their home to protect them from imminent harm. If you agree, please fight with us for family freedom.
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