ILNews

Divided Supreme Court reinstates parental termination order

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The Indiana Court of Appeals impermissibly reversed termination of a father’s parental rights, a majority of the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Friday in reinstating a trial court order.

Justice Loretta Rush wrote for the majority in a 4-1 decision that a divided COA panel that overturned the trial court “contravened the standard of review by reweighing the evidence. We therefore affirm the trial court’s judgment.”

The case arose from the court of former Lake Superior Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, who since has been appointed to lead the Department of Child Services. The court stripped a father of visitation because of a history of abuse of the children’s mother and failure to comply with court-ordered services.

Father later was convicted of a firearm charge and imprisoned in Illinois, where he complied with anger-management programs and sought to reform himself, according to the record. When released, he contacted DCS in an effort to see his children who since had been placed with maternal grandparents.

The majority of justices held that the Court of Appeals could not substitute its judgment that too little credence was given to the father’s efforts for the findings of the trial court. The case is In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of E.M. and El.M., E.M. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 45S03-1308-JT-557.  

“The Court of Appeals’ focus on Father’s recent efforts was understandable, but nevertheless amounted to reweighing the evidence,” Rush wrote, noting that “the evidence here was close.

“… It was not clearly erroneous for the trial court to conclude that after three and a half years, Father’s efforts simply came too late and that (his children) needed permanency even more than they needed a final effort at family preservation,” the majority held.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented. “In a carefully worded and well reasoned memorandum decision the Court of Appeals concluded there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s judgment terminating Father’s parental rights,” he wrote in agreeing with the COA’s reversal.

Rucker noted there was no evidence in the record that the children were ever abused and evidence was deficient to support removal being in the children’s best interest. Noting the majority view that the evidence was “close,” he wrote, “But this is not a game of horseshoes and close is not good enough.

“In order to terminate a parent’s parental rights the State must prove its case by clear and convincing evidence. It has failed to do so.”


 

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  1. 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.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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