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Supreme Court vacates parental termination for jailed mom

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A juvenile court abused it discretion by proceeding with a hearing and terminating a mother’s parental rights in her absence because she was in jail, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday. Her attorney’s failure to ensure she was heard from also denied her a fair hearing, justices ruled.

Justices vacated a termination order by Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores in In re the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of K.W., a Minor Child, and His Mother, C.C. K.W. v. Indiana Department of Child Services and Child Advocates, Inc., 49S02-1407-JT-458. The mother’s attorney filed a motion for continuance until the mother was released.

“The trial court denied this request and held the hearing in the mother’s absence — the end result was the termination of her parental rights with respect to her son. Under the facts and circumstances of this case, we conclude that the denial of the motion for a continuance was an abuse of discretion,” Justice Steven David wrote for the court.

Two-year-old K.W. was declared a child in need of services a month after he was born after repeated instances in which his mother and father discontinued services, tested positive for drugs or were arrested, according to the record.

But the opinion notes that the hearing already had twice been continued, and found the judgment had to be vacated  because the mother, though represented by council, was deprived an opportunity to be heard from in any manner at the termination hearing.

The court relied upon the 11-factor test adopted in In re C.G., Z.G. v. Marion Department of Child Services, 954 N.E.2d 910, 922 (Ind. 2011), to reach its conclusion, while noting that test is typically applied to a motion to transport an incarcerated parent to a termination hearing.

“(T)he trial court opted to carry out a proceeding by which C.C.’s fundamental rights to parental autonomy were challenged, attacked, and taken away – without C.C.’s personal participation in any way,” the court held. “When viewed in such a light, we cannot help but find that C.C. showed good cause why her motion should be granted, and to do otherwise was clearly against the logic and circumstances of the case.”

The opinion also notes the mother’s attorney “certainly could have –    and probably should have” tried to arrange for her to be transported to the hearing.

“So while it is true that C.C.’s attorney attempted to mount a defense by cross-examining DCS witnesses and putting on one of his own, that is a far cry from saying that C.C. was heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner and far from being fundamentally fair – and it was therefore prejudicial,” the court held.  

 

 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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