A former counselor in Virginia is suing the state to be relieved of what’s described as “permanent punishment” for a youthful indiscretion.
The Institute for Justice, which has taken up the case of Rudy Carey, explained Carey’s hard childhood included, at age 18, the death of his father when he had to make the decision to take him off life support.
Drugs and alcohol soon were a part of his life, and he spent time behind bars.
But later, he cleaned up his life, got married and started working as a case manager at a homeless shelter, doing hundreds of credit-hours of work.
Later, he became a substance abuse counselor, and worked that position for several years.
Then in 2018, however, the facility where he worked was sold, and the state sent him a letter banning him from working as a substance-abuse counselor anywhere in the state. Ever.
It was because during a traffic stop that included a scuffle nearly 20 years ago, he “inadvertently struck” a police officer, putting him on the list of those permanently barred from working in direct care positions.
“People change – Rudy’s changed,” said Andrew Ward, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represents Rudy. “And yet, Virginia is punishing him for what he once was, not what he’s become. People like Rudy are often the best suited to help others struggling with addiction, and yet, Virginia permanently bars them from trying to help others change their lives.”
“This lawsuit isn’t about me,” said Carey. “I filed this lawsuit to help everyone like me who wants to give back to the community that helped them turn their life around. I just don’t understand why Virginia punishes the people that are best equipped to help one another.”
The IJ reports even the state’s Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services admits the ban isn’t the best idea, since it makes hiring qualified individuals “challenging.”
“Banning Rudy from working doesn’t protect the public,” said IJ Attorney Michael Greenberg. “It deprives people battling addiction of a qualified counselor, and deprives those counselors of earning an honest living doing something they love. Virginia’s permanent punishment policy isn’t just irrational, its unconstitutional.”
The federal lawsuit challenges Virginia’s ban, as applied to substance-abuse counselors, under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Under both the Equal Protection clause and the Due Process clause, laws preventing people from working must be related to fitness to practice the occupation. Virginia’s lifetime ban, the lawsuit argues, is simply too broad to pass muster, the IJ argues.
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