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Judges uphold termination of parental rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found ample evidence that a mother took little to no steps to correct the problems that led to her son’s removal and continued placement out of her care, so it affirmed the termination of parental rights. In its opinion, the judges also discussed Indiana Evidence Rule 201(b) regarding judicial notice of “records of a court of this state.”

In Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of D.K.; O.K. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, No. 22A01-1110-JT-485, mother O.K. appealed the termination of her parental rights to her son, D.K. He was removed from O.K.’s care in 2009 and placed in foster care after the Department of Child Services substantiated a report of neglect. D.K. was adjudicated as a child in need of services and O.K. was ordered to participate in several programs and obtain stable housing and employment. Over the course of the next two years, she lived at eight different residences, didn’t participate in services, and didn’t keep a job.

At the hearing to terminate her parental rights, she said she had just put a deposit down on an apartment with the help of her father and boyfriend. The trial court terminated her parental rights in 2011.

The appellate court found clear and convincing evidence that the conditions that led to D.K.’s initial removal and continued placement outside of his mother’s care would not be remedied. She had an opportunity to reunite with him, but instead was concerned more with her own desires than her son’s welfare.

The judges also discussed the fact that at the termination hearing, DCS asked the trial court to take judicial notice of the underlying CHINS proceedings, and the trial court agreed to do so. In its brief, the DCS related facts that are based on documents filed in the CHINS action that aren’t support by any evidence actually introduced at the termination of parental rights hearing. Neither party provided these documents for appellate review.

The trial court didn’t err in taking judicial notice of the CHINS proceedings based on Rule 201(b), but judicial review can present problems for appellate review, noted Judge Michael Barnes, citing the post-conviction case Graham v. State, 941 N.E.2d 1091, 1097. TPR cases are similar to PCR cases in that they often must refer to and rely heavily on records in different, but related proceedings, he wrote.

“In that respect, what we noted in Graham applies equally here, and in fact in any situation where a trial court takes judicial notice of records of another court proceeding in deciding a case. Evidence Rule 201(b) now allows trial courts to take judicial notice of records of other court proceedings, but if a court does so, there must be some effort made to include such 'other' records in the record of the current proceeding,” he wrote. “Furthermore, if a party on appeal wishes to rely on parts of the ‘other’ record or records in making an argument before this court, it should include those parts in an appendix submitted to this court under Indiana Appellate Rule 50.”
 

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  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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