Nov 2, 2014

Qualified Immunity

Qualified Immunity
by Sylvie Fox


Sheila Harrison Grant is the first African American woman ever nominated to the federal bench in Cleveland. But when her thirteen-year-old daughter Olivia shares a family secret with a well-meaning guidance counselor, she sets the wheels in motion to feed a partisan senate’s opposition, threatening her mother’s position…and both of their lives. 

Once an ambitious young law student with promise, Casey Cort made the mistake of crossing a classmate from a prominent and influential family. Now she works as an unfulfilled, faceless cog in a broken legal system. 

When fate gives Casey a second chance, she has to set aside her lack of faith in justice and find the strength to fight for those with nowhere else to turn. 

In this first novel of the Casey Cort series, Sylvie Fox—a former trial lawyer in Cleveland—weaves a tale that blends the best of today’s top legal thrillers with the heart and soul of women’s fiction, in a story ripped from real-world headlines.

About the Author:
Sylvie Fox is the author Don't Judge Me, the first book in the Judgment series. She has also authored the controversial novel The Good Enough Husband. Lastly, she is the author of the sexy, contemporary L.A. Nights series. When she's not battling traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles, she's eating her way through Budapest.

You can read more about her books at www.sylviefox.com


EXCERPT


Casey Cort’s hand-me-down Honda Accord sputtered along Superior Avenue. She tried not to let the red needle hovering around the ‘E’ on her gas gauge freak her out. The young lawyer needed to complete the visit to her client DeAndre Nelson today. Her wallet was empty, save for a few pennies and some lint. She needed to get this done and get home before she ran out of gas.
Casey looked for the doorbell. There was none. She knocked carefully at the rotting wood of the screen door, careful not to knock it off its hinge. Waiting by the door, she marveled how these foster parents were nearly as poor as the kids they were ‘helping.’ Finally, a smartly dressed woman let her in.
“Kendra James.” The woman extended her hand, inviting her in.
While she disappeared to get DeAndre, Casey took a seat on a sunken couch smelling faintly of things she didn’t want to consider. She watched as two little kids, red Kool-Aid rings staining their mouths, sat catatonically in front of a television blaring cartoons.
The uneven acoustic drop ceiling was stained, while bowed wood paneling stood out from the wall like a sail full of sea air. Carpet curled away from the walls. She’d hate to be here during a hard rain. A cherubic baby perched on Kendra’s hip as the woman strode from the back of the house.
“So, how’s he doing?” she asked after dispensing with the usual preliminary questions. “Any problems? Is the mom getting visitation?”
Kendra sat heavily on a recliner and answered her question. “The mom’s not an issue in this case. The social worker, Ms. Pachencko said that my husband and I could adopt him in a couple of months.”
Had she wandered into some dystopian world? Fostering was temporary by its very definition. Casey sunk deeper into the smelly cushions. The mom wasn’t an issue? The mother was always an issue. Parents had fundamental constitutional rights. Even if the new laws cut off parents’ rights quicker, it didn’t make them any less important.
“Ms. James,” Casey started cautiously. “I think we must have our wires crossed. Right now, DeAndre is not eligible for adoption. The county has only removed him from his mom temporarily. The social worker is a Ms. Pachencko, did you say?” Kendra nodded, so Casey continued. “She should have a case plan in place so the baby and the mom can work toward reunification.”
Kendra James blinked a couple of times as she took in the information. “Oh…but…I’m sorry—I, I thought when we agreed to be a foster-to-adopt home that we’d only get kids we could eventually adopt. I really want to be a mom.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. James, but in DeAndrĂ©’s case, it doesn’t work that way.”
“But if the mom’s in jail, or dead, why can’t we have him?” Her voice was bordering on a whine.
Because babies aren’t dogs that you pick up at the pound after a three night stay. Casey bit her lip, keeping her opinion to herself. “Why don’t you talk to Ms. Pachencko about that. In the meantime, I need to find out where the mom and dad are—make a determination of whether reunification with the family is a good idea here.” Kendra looked so distressed, that Casey softened her tone, mollifying the foster mom as best she could. “We need more people in the foster care system like you and your husband.”
With that, Casey gathered her papers, took another quick peek at the sleeping child, then left the James’ residence.
Casey started the car. She eased her foot onto the gas pedal, hoping to conserve what fuel she could, when a fist banged against her passenger window. Remembering the men down the street, she started and slammed her foot on the brake, bucking the car. It was only Kendra James, though. Turning on and off a car used more gas than idling, she suspected, and shifted the car to neutral. Leaning across the passenger seat, she rolled down the last manual window in Northern Ohio.
“We paid her, you know.”
“Paid who? What?”
“Trish said if we paid her, the next eligible baby would be ours.