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COA concerned about some details in termination case

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In affirming the involuntary termination of a mother’s parental rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals noted some troubling details involving the case.

Mother Z.G. appealed the termination of her parental rights of her daughter, C.G., whom she left in the care of a neighbor or then-boyfriend when she went to Utah and was arrested on drug charges. During that time, C.G. was sexually abused. C.G. was placed in foster care and has remained with that family.

The mother was originally jailed in Utah but then transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Office in the Southern District of Indiana and jailed in Kentucky. Attempts to find her by Department of Child Services case managers failed, and mother wasn’t located until several months later when she learned from a friend there were termination and child in need of services proceedings regarding C.G.

Mother’s requests to appear in person at the hearings in Marion Juvenile Court were denied and she appeared via telephone. On appeal in Term. of parent-child rel. of C.G.; Z.G. v. Marion County DCS and Child Advocates, No. 49A04-1002-JT-75, mother claimed DCS and the trial court deprived her of due process, the trial court abused its discretion by excluding evidence regarding the permanent disposition for C.G., and there’s insufficient evidence to support the termination.

The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed the termination but took issue with several details in the case. One DCS case manager’s affidavit of diligent inquiry filed when DCS sought to serve notice upon Z.G. by publication contained an inaccuracy. It said that the case manager had asked “family acquaintances regarding the parent’s whereabouts,” but the manager testified he used a form to generate the affidavit and that statement couldn’t be removed. He didn’t contact any family acquaintances. Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote that his attitude toward executing a sworn affidavit is “troubling,” but the inaccuracy didn’t increase the error in termination proceedings.

The appellate panel was also concerned by the fact that the DCS case manager, who first received a letter from the mother in November 2008, didn’t tell her a CHINS case was pending in his response letter in December 2008. The mother didn’t learn of the proceeding until she received an advisement of rights form and copy of the CHINS petition in a February 2009 letter, a little less than a month before DCS filed its petition for termination.

“DCS’s delay in sending Mother a copy of the CHINS petition and an advisement of rights effectively precluded Mother from participating in the CHINS case in its later stages and cannot be condoned. Nevertheless, we cannot conclude that DCS’s dilatory behavior substantially increased the risk of error in the termination proceedings,” Judge Vaidik wrote.

Finally, the appellate judges were troubled by the Marion Superior Court’s policy that juvenile prisoners cannot be within sight or hearing of adult prisoners, and the Juvenile Division lacks the facilities to separately house adult and juvenile offenders at the Juvenile Center. There is a blanket policy preventing adult inmates from participating in person in proceedings at the center, thus mother had to participate by telephone.

“As the evidence at the hearing shows, there are other Marion County courts with the capacity to hold adult prisoners, and those could be used in termination proceedings when necessary,” she wrote. “We can foresee circumstances under which an incarcerated parent’s in-person participation in a termination proceeding would be necessary, and the Marion Superior Court’s policy could deprive parents of their right to due process in those circumstances.”

Nonetheless, the judges found Z.G.’s due process rights weren’t significantly compromised by her telephonic participation because she was represented by counsel, she testified during the hearing, and was able to authenticate exhibits her counsel sent her.
 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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