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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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