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NEWS CENTER Maine files lawsuit against DHHS, demands access to child case files

After being denied access to Marissa Kennedy's and Kendall Chick's case files within the Department of Health and Human services, NEWS CENTER Maine has taken legal action.

(NEWS CENTER Maine) -- After being denied access to Marissa Kennedy’s and Kendall Chick’s case files within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), NEWS CENTER Maine has taken legal action.

Both children were killed at the hands of their guardians, according to police. In both cases, questions have been raised about the role of DHHS in their deaths and whether DHHS could and should have taken steps to prevent those tragedies.

NEWS CENTER Maine submitted requests to the DHHS commissioner to make public the DHHS files on Kennedy and Chick. DHHS summarily denied our requests, citing privacy laws or open investigations.

DHHS has since continued to hide behind a self-imposed gag order and refused to release their case files to the public. This despite Attorney General Janet Mills saying in an interview with NEWS CENTER Maine that the people of Maine deserve to know what those files contain.

So, last week, NEWS CENTER Maine appealed both those denials by filing complaints in Maine Superior Court, challenging the department's decision to withhold that information from the public.

The complaint states "the public has a legitimate right to know how its publicly funded Department of Health and Human Services responded to complaints and warnings relating to abuse of the child."

Our position is that the public has the right to know how it's publicly-funded DHHS decided to place Chick in the home of extended family members and how it responded to complaints and warnings relating to the abuse of one or both of these children.

NEWS CENTER Maine is fighting for these case files to be made public because we believe the people of Maine have the right to see them.

It is very important that we stay transparent with you at home about what we are doing and why. The commissioner has 14 days to respond to our complaints and we hope the court will schedule a hearing within the next two months.

All documentation pertaining to this lawsuit is provided below, including documents sent to DHHS Commissioner Rick Hamilton and Attorney General Mills. They include the complaint, the original request for the case files and the department's response.

We'll continue to update you as legal proceedings unfold.

Kendall Chick Case

Marissa Kennedy Lawsuit

We will continue to update this story.