13-0 Petitioner's Brief Filed
September 25th, 2023
[note: this is a 44-page document. Use the PDF link to download and read the entire Brief]
Petitioner Ivy Hill Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses filed the Petition for Review to seek an answer to the following basic question: Are the elders of Ivy Hill “clergymen” for purposes of the exception to mandatory reporting found in 23 Pa.C.S. § 6311.1(b)(1)? Respondent Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (“DHS”) has never answered this question, even in any of its pleadings in this case, but has essentially provided this chilly rejoinder to the elders: you’ll find out if you are clergymen only when law enforcement comes to arrest you for a
failure to report. See DHS br. at 14.1 This is an unacceptable state of affairs, and is exactly the type of anxiety and pending jeopardy that a declaratory judgment action is intended to resolve. DHS attempts to sidestep this by ignoring binding en banc precedent regarding standing,
by grossly understating its statutory role under the Child Protective Services Law (“CPSL”) (e.g., DHS actually states that whether child abuse is reported to it is “of no consequence,” DHS br. at 14 (emphasis added)), and by serially mischaracterizing the relief Ivy Hill Congregation seeks in the Petition for Review. With each of the foregoing properly framed, as is done below, the Court will see that none of the pending Preliminary Objections withstands scrutiny, and will see that each should be overruled.
footnote: 1 “[W]hether an elder at Ivy Hill, or any mandatory report for that matter, fails to report a suspected instance of child abuse is of no consequence to the Department. The CPSL does not provide the Department with the ability to investigate an allegation that a mandatory report failed to report. Failure to report a case of suspected child abuse is a criminal offense investigated and prosecuted by law enforcement officials.” DHS br. at 14.
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