ILNews

Justices: Indiana OK to dismiss jurisdiction

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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In an Indiana custody case that started before a married couple's only child was born, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that either Indiana or the state where the child was born could have jurisdiction over proceedings. The Indiana trial court dismissed proceedings in favor of Washington State, where the child was born, as a more convenient forum, clearing the way for that state to take over jurisdiction.

The issue in Anthony N. Stewart v. Signe L. (Stewart) Vulliet, No. 12S02-0708-CV-331, is whether Indiana could dismiss the child custody proceedings between Anthony Stewart and Signe Vulliet and allow Washington to take over the proceedings.

Stewart and Vulliet were married and lived in Washington before moving to Indiana. While Vulliet was pregnant and still living in Indiana, she filed for divorce and moved back to Washington after living in Indiana for only six months. Their daughter, A.S., was born in Washington in 2004 and for nearly two years, the Indiana trial court issued several orders pertaining to the child's custody.

In April 2006, Vulliet asked the Indiana court to dismiss custody and visitation issues, arguing Indiana was an inconvenient forum. The court granted the motion, even though it ruled she had waived her right to claim forum inconvenience, and decided Washington was better suited to resolve the dispute because it was the child's home state and it had a closer connection with the child and witnesses concerning the child's welfare.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court decision, ruling Indiana is a more convenient forum and Vulliet had waived any claim that Washington was the daughter's home state.

The Indiana Supreme Court examined the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Law (UCCJL) to determine if Indiana ever had jurisdiction over the child. The provisions in the law dictate what happens only after a child is born, so the Supreme Court looked to other courts to determine what to do when cases are filed before a child is born.

The high court determined that both states could have jurisdiction over the child. Under Indiana Code, jurisdiction is conferred to Indiana if a child doesn't have a home state and it's in the best interest of the child for Indiana to assume jurisdiction. Before the child was born, she didn't have a home state, so it was justified for Indiana to have jurisdiction.

However, once the baby was born in Washington, that state became her home state and they had concurrent subject-matter jurisdiction to determine custody, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

"Despite that A.S., being unborn, did not have a home state nor close connections with the state of Washington when the proceeding was commenced, the trial court can still properly consider these factors when determining whether to dismiss the action for forum inconvenience because the UCCJL authorizes a court to decline exercising jurisdiction 'any time before making a decree,'" wrote Chief Justice Shepard.
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  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

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