Divided Supreme Court reinstates parental termination order

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The Indiana Court of Appeals impermissibly reversed termination of a father’s parental rights, a majority of the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Friday in reinstating a trial court order.

Justice Loretta Rush wrote for the majority in a 4-1 decision that a divided COA panel that overturned the trial court “contravened the standard of review by reweighing the evidence. We therefore affirm the trial court’s judgment.”

The case arose from the court of former Lake Superior Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, who since has been appointed to lead the Department of Child Services. The court stripped a father of visitation because of a history of abuse of the children’s mother and failure to comply with court-ordered services.

Father later was convicted of a firearm charge and imprisoned in Illinois, where he complied with anger-management programs and sought to reform himself, according to the record. When released, he contacted DCS in an effort to see his children who since had been placed with maternal grandparents.

The majority of justices held that the Court of Appeals could not substitute its judgment that too little credence was given to the father’s efforts for the findings of the trial court. The case is In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of E.M. and El.M., E.M. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 45S03-1308-JT-557.  

“The Court of Appeals’ focus on Father’s recent efforts was understandable, but nevertheless amounted to reweighing the evidence,” Rush wrote, noting that “the evidence here was close.

“… It was not clearly erroneous for the trial court to conclude that after three and a half years, Father’s efforts simply came too late and that (his children) needed permanency even more than they needed a final effort at family preservation,” the majority held.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented. “In a carefully worded and well reasoned memorandum decision the Court of Appeals concluded there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s judgment terminating Father’s parental rights,” he wrote in agreeing with the COA’s reversal.

Rucker noted there was no evidence in the record that the children were ever abused and evidence was deficient to support removal being in the children’s best interest. Noting the majority view that the evidence was “close,” he wrote, “But this is not a game of horseshoes and close is not good enough.

“In order to terminate a parent’s parental rights the State must prove its case by clear and convincing evidence. It has failed to do so.”



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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.