Miami-Dade County

DCF lawyers not in contempt, judge finds

Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia
Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia Miami Herald Staff

A Miami judge has ruled that state child welfare lawyers were not in contempt of court when they gave her erroneous information about a girl who was in the same home as a foster sibling who hanged herself — while livestreaming on Facebook.

Miami Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia, who heads the circuit’s child welfare division, held a hearing earlier this week to determine whether the Department of Children & Families’ Children’s Legal Services had been in contempt of court when lawyers provided her information that the judge believed to be false. The information pertained to the identity of two girls who were living in the same Miami Gardens foster home as 14-year-old Naika Venant, who hanged herself on Facebook Live.

At the hearing Wednesday, CLS lawyers insisted they made a mistake in identifying one of the girls, but had no intention of misleading the judge.

In a short order signed Friday, Sampedro-Iglesia said Children’s Legal Services and the office’s top lawyer in Miami, Clarissa Cabrejo, were not guilty of indirect civil contempt.

“Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, the correct information has been received by the court,” Sampedro-Iglesia wrote. “The evidence further indicates that neither CLS nor Cabreja willfully failed to comply” with an order Sampedro-Iglesia signed on Feb. 22.

The mother of Naika Venant, who committed suicide on Facebook Live, speaks to the media on Jan. 25, 2016.