Absent father of Banita Jacks children: I’m suing the city

Family members of the children Banita Jacks murdered, who apparently cared so much about the children that they didn’t notice Jacks had starved them to death months before they were discovered, “have hired lawyers to pursue claims against the D.C. government for failing to prevent months of neglect and abuse. … In interviews yesterday, the grandmothers’ lawyers declined to say when their clients last saw Jacks or her daughters.”

DC taxpayers will be thrilled to note that the city is refusing to rehire three workers fired in a scapegoating frenzy after the Jacks revelations, even after a hearing officer has held that the firings were unwarranted. More lawsuits to come. (Keith L. Alexander and Petula Dvorak, “D.C. Could Have Done More To Help 4 Sisters, Families Say”, Washington Post, Feb. 28).

For an example of the post-Jacks overreaction, see Hans Bader at POL, who has beat me to the Greg and Julianna Caplan story, which was also extensively covered in the Marc Fisher blog.


  • More inner-city pathology that our system sticks taxpayers with the tab for, one way or another.

  • The concern about overreaction is not supportable on its facts. As the Post has reported, in 2006, 1/3 of the 157 childern and young adults who died in DC were in the child-welfare system. There is no evidence that any employee has ever been disciplined in the slightest for any of those deaths.

    Lots of people have jobs that require them to carry out particular tasks within a certain range of activity, neither under- nor over-performing. Law firm associates, for instance, are generally required to bill a certain minimum number of hours. When an associate falls well below that minimum, somehow no one ever says that the associate shouldn’t be fired for fear that such disciplinary action would lead other associates to pad their hours over-zealously. No, the underperformer gets fired, and those who break the rules in the opposite direction face appropriate discipline as well.

    That same logic applies to Child Services as well. Punish the underperformers and punish the zealots. But it’s not true to suggest that we have to write off the deaths of a certain number of poor kids as the inevitable price to pay to ensure that some nice middle-class family doesn’t get hassled once in a while.

    Here’s a Post editorial that discusses the need to get the balance right and not pardon one error or the other.

  • As the Post has reported, in 2006, 1/3 of the 157 childern and young adults who died in DC were in the child-welfare system.

    Without knowing the numerator and the denominator, that statistic is meaningless–especially since it includes “children” as old as 22 who get into gang wars. And a majority of the 157 deaths resulted from “premature birth or low birth weight,” which has nothing to do with foster care.

  • What I think people need to think about is the fact that if the relatives sue, they have to bring the suit for the estates of the children. The lawyers are representing the children essentially and need a “real” person to use as a client.

    With this said, a lot has been made that the familes will sue, or plan to sue, or have sued. I checked and there has not been a suit filed.

    Everyone bashing the parties here doesn’t know all the facts and issues and needs to keep quiet until it all pans out. More importantly, if you were a lawyer and had your own business would you turn down a case that has a chance for profit for your business? Get real people.