Judge dismisses suit against social workers from mom who tested positive for drugs

MINOT, N.D. — North Central District Court Judge Todd Cresap has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a practicing Rastafarian whose baby was briefly taken into foster care in Minot three years ago when the mother tested positive for marijuana.

Shanika Lister's daughter was born April 15, 2015 at Trinity Hospital and a test showed she had marijuana and meth in her system. The baby tested negative for meth and other drugs, but positive for marijuana. The baby was returned to her parents about a week later. North Central Human Services placed Lister's name on the state child abuse registry after the director decided services were required because the child was born with marijuana in her system. Lister appealed.

A state administrative law judge later ruled that Lister's use of marijuana during her pregnancy was a protected religious practice. Lister's name was permanently removed from the registry on Sept. 6, 2016, according to Cresap's judgment, and no one requested or released information about Lister during the time her name was on the registry.

Lister had filed suit against Social Services and against individual social workers. She said she continues to experience emotional distress from having her daughter taken into foster care and that it lacked jurisdiction because she was an out of state resident at the time.

Cresap, in granting the defendants' request for summary judgment in their favor, ruled that the defendants had immunity from lawsuits, that the agency has a duty to investigate reports of child neglect, that the director had discretion to place Lister's name on the child abuse registry, and that Lister waived the jurisdiction argument when she agreed to have her case heard during the administrative hearing.