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COA reverses involuntary termination order for a second time

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The Indiana Court of Appeals sharply rebuked a trial court as having “committed clear error” by relying on old evidence and testimony in terminating a Vanderburgh County couple’s parental rights.

In July 2011, the trial court issued an order granting termination petitions filed by the Indiana Department of Child Services. However, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings because the four minor children had not been removed from the parents for at least six months under a dispositional decree as required by Indiana Code 31-35-2-4(b)(2)(A)(i).

DCS filed a second petition in May 2012. Over the objection of the parents, the trial court admitted the transcript and exhibits of the previous termination hearing. Again, the lower court terminated the parent-child relationship.

The Court of Appeals reversed the second termination order in In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: N.Q., Je.Q., Ja.Q., L.Q., Minor Children, T.Q., Mother, and A.Q., Father v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 82A04-1301-JT-42.

It faulted the trial court’s ruling as based primarily on the evidence presented at the first termination hearing even when the findings were directly contradicted by the parents and not refuted by DCS at the second termination hearing.  

 “Moreover, it was error for the court to issue its order which did not adequately consider the evidence presented by Parents of their current conditions, including Parents’ new income and their ability to keep current on their bills and maintain a clean residence,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court. “Indeed, the court also failed to consider the lack of evidence to the contrary presented by DCS, despite the fact that it was DCS’s burden to prove its case by a heightened ‘clear and convincing’ standard.”

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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