ILNews

Justices reverse termination of parental rights in 2 cases

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In two short, per curiam decisions, the Indiana Supreme Court found the parental rights of two Marion County parents should not have been terminated because of due process violations after the magistrate who heard their cases resigned before reporting recommended findings and conclusions.

Marion Superior Magistrate Judge Julianne Cartmel presided over the termination hearings involving father T.P. and mother K.G. and their respective children. After the hearing, she took the matter under advisement, but resigned her position before reporting recommended factual findings and conclusions to Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores. Both cases were transferred to Magistrate Judge Larry Bradley, who, without holding a new evidentiary hearing, reviewed the hearing records and reported recommended findings and conclusions.

Moores approved the findings and ordered both parents’ rights terminated. The Court of Appeals affirmed in both cases, finding no due process violations. The appeals court cited Trial Rule 63(A) as authorizing Bradley to report recommending findings and conclusions without holding a new evidentiary hearing in T.P.’s case, but that rule is inapplicable, the justices held.

“A party is entitled to a determination of the issues by the judge who heard the evidence, and, where a case is tried to a judge who resigns before determining the issues, a successor judge cannot decide the issues or enter findings without a trial de novo,” the In re I.P. opinion states. “It is precisely because the judge or magistrate presiding at a termination hearing has a superior vantage point for assessing witness credibility and weighing evidence that we give great deference to a trial court's decision to terminate a parent's rights.”

But in both cases, Bradley did not hear the evidence or observe the witnesses first hand and both parents did not agree to have him recommend findings and conclusions based on a review of the record.

The terminations are reversed and the cases are remanded for further proceedings. They are In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of I.P., T.P. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, and Child Advocates, Inc., 49S02-1402-JT-81; and In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of S.B., Ay.B., A.B. and K.G., K.G. v. Marion County Department of Child Services, and Child Advocates, Inc., 49S02-1402-JT-77.

 

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  3. 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.

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