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COA affirms ruling in 'unusual' termination case

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In an unusual case on appeal in which a mother's parental rights were terminated to only one of her five children during a termination hearing, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the decision due to the circumstances of the case.

Lavonne Aikens appealed the termination of her parental rights to her son I.A. in the case In the Matter of Termination of Parental-Child Relationship of I.A. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, No. 02A05-0811-JV-660. I.A. is the youngest of her nine children and tested positive for cocaine at birth. I.A. also has a genetic disorder and multiple physical deformities. The Allen County Department of Child Services filed a petition alleging I.A. and four of his siblings were children in need of services. The children were placed in foster care, with I.A. placed with a different family. Aikens never developed a relationship with I.A., wasn't fully aware of his medical situation, and refused to donate blood to help doctors determine his genetic disorder.

The Court of Appeals described the case as "very unusual" in its opinion today, given that the rights to only one child were terminated in a hearing regarding five children. The circumstances of the case support the termination to parental rights of I.A., given Aikens' indifference towards her son, her lack of cooperation with doctors in giving blood to test for I.A.'s genetic disorder, and failure to contact a DCS family case manager to ask about I.A.

"Although we commend Mother for being drug-free at the termination hearing (and hope that she is still drug-free today), kicking a cocaine habit for eight months is one thing. But overcoming a pattern of indifference to a child who has many medical needs is quite another. The DCS has established a reasonable probability that Mother will not change regarding I.A.," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Aikens also argued that the totality of the evidence showed she complied with services such that the court denied terminating her parental rights to her other four children and the court speculated on her ability to care for I.A. But I.A. was treated separately by the attorneys and witnesses during the termination hearing for good reason, wrote the judge. Even Aikens' own counsel said in closing statements that counsel would understand if the court just terminated her rights to I.A. given Aikens' past and chance of relapse. Based on all of the evidence, the appellate court ruled the trial court's judgment wasn't erroneous.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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