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Mom’s one-time meth use does not support CHINS case

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A mother’s isolated use of methamphetamine by itself is insufficient to sustain a child in need of services finding, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The case involves a Sullivan County mother of 6-year-old L.P. who Department of Child Services interviewed after a tip that the mother had used the drug. The mother tested positive after a voluntary screen. The child was placed with a relative, and DCS then began CHINS proceedings.

Mother voluntarily agreed to drug screens and provided 10 consecutive negative tests. Evidence also was presented that the child was well cared-for. Sullivan Superior Judge Robert E. Springer returned the child to the mother but determined the child to be in need of services. While commending mother for working and avoiding substance abuse, he wrote he agreed with DCS’ “zero tolerance” for meth, which he said had caused “tragic” effects in the southwestern Indiana county.

In In the Matter of: L.P., a Child Alleged to be a Child in Need of Services, K.K., Mother v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 77A01-1310-JC-427, the panel reversed.

“We are mindful that ‘juvenile court judges are often faced with the challenge of balancing multiple factors and multiple voices in a CHINS case’ and ‘[t]he process of the CHINS proceeding focuses on the best interests of the child, rather than guilt or innocence as in a criminal proceeding,’” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the panel, citing In re K.D., 962 N.E.2d at 1255.

“Although methamphetamine use may indeed be epidemic, here the relevant inquiry was whether L.P. was seriously impaired or endangered and in need of care and supervision unlikely to be provided without coercive intervention of the court. ... (T)he State proved a single use of methamphetamine; likewise, there is no suggestion that it took place in the presence of the child.

“... Mother thereafter voluntarily and consistently took drug screens with negative results. The factual finding of an isolated use of methamphetamine, without more, does not support the conclusion of law that L.P. was a CHINS,” the court held.

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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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