ILNews

COA reverses termination of father's rights

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court order terminating the parental rights of a father, finding the trial court erred when it relied on an independent investigation to end his rights without giving the father a chance to view or respond to the investigation.

In In Re: The Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of S.F. and J.F., Michael Farley v. Allen County Child Services, No. 02A03-0707-JV-306, the appellate court was asked to decide whether Farley was denied due process when he was not allowed to respond to an independent investigation ordered by the trial court.

In July 2006, the Allen County Department of Child Services filed a petition to terminate Farley's parental rights of S.F. and J.F. because he had allegedly failed to maintain suitable living conditions. A trial was conducted in December 2006 on the matter; in February 2007, the trial court ordered an additional investigation of Farley's home by the Allen County Health Department. The court terminated Farley's parental rights in April 2007, citing the health department's report and how it reaffirmed that Farley's home is unsanitary.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court order, finding Farley's due process rights were denied by the use of the health department's report in terminating his rights. After the trial court received the report, it didn't conduct further proceedings and Farley wasn't able to cross-examine the inspector or offer his own evidence to contradict the report.

A parent must be able to view evidence used to terminate his or her parental rights and given the opportunity to respond, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. The trial court's off-the-record investigation and failure to give Farley the opportunity to respond created a high risk of error.

Even though DCS argued Farley didn't object to the order or file a motion to correct error, it was a fundamental error by the court and he did not waive his right to appeal this issue. Also, there was evidence the house was unsuitable for children when they were found to be CHINS; however, there was also evidence that Farley was slowly improving the home. If there was convincing evidence that the condition of Farley's home which led to the removal of the children had not been remedied, then the additional investigation ordered by the trial court wouldn't have been necessary, wrote Judge Barnes.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court order and remanded with instructions for the trial court to conduct another trial.
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  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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