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High court hears first 'rocket docket' appeal

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In the first appeal of a juvenile case under Indiana Appellate Rule 14.1, the "rocket docket," the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the juvenile court's determination that a child shouldn't be immediately reunited with his mother until after the school year concluded - contrary to what the Department of Child Services recommended - wasn't clearly erroneous.

Also in the appeal, the Supreme Court addressed whether the juvenile court's order rejecting DCS' placement recommendation is eligible for expedited appeal under Rule 14.1; what the appropriate appellate standard for review for these types of expedited appeals is; and whether the juvenile court properly rejected DCS' recommendation.

In the case granted transfer with opinion today, In Re: T.S., a child in need of services, Indiana Department of Child Services v. LaPorte Circuit Court and LaPorte County CASA, No. 46S04-0904-JV-160, the high court first had to determine whether the juvenile court's decision was within the category of rulings appealable under App. Rule. 14.1. The rule says that orders entered under Indiana Code Section 31-34-19-6.1(f) are eligible for expedited appeal; that statute says if a juvenile court enters findings under -6.1(d) and (e), the department may appeal in an expeditious manner the juvenile court's decree under any available procedure provided by Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure or Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure. In this case, the juvenile court entered a dispositional decree with written findings and conclusions and stated why it wasn't accepting DCS' recommendation T.S. immediately be returned to his mother's home, which satisfies subsections (d) and (e), wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

The Supreme Court agreed with DCS that I.C. Section 31-34-19-6.1(d) at the trial court level means the trial court is to accept DCS' recommendations unless they are unreasonable or contrary to the welfare of the child and the state is to presume the recommendations are correct.

"Because of the statutory presumption favoring DCS' final recommendations, juvenile courts thus lack unfettered discretion to make a contrary decision," the justice wrote.

However, the appellate review standard under this statute will be reviewed as clearly erroneous instead of an abuse of discretion. The juvenile court supported with specific factual findings its conclusion that reunification wasn't in T.S.' best interest at that time. DCS didn't show the findings failed to support the juvenile court's ruling and the high court declined to find the juvenile court's determination was clearly erroneous, wrote Justice Dickson.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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