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Mother not denied due process by not having appointed counsel in CHINS case

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While disappointed that a trial court did not follow through with the appointment of counsel for a mother regarding a child in need of services action, any error in that failure was harmless, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. It upheld the termination of mother J.A.’s parental rights to her son G.P.

G.P. was removed from his mother’s home as an infant due to allegations he was a CHINS, which the court later found to be true. The boy was placed with his paternal grandparents. The goal was reunification, but J.A. did not complete certain services, including keeping the Department of Child Services up to date with her contact information and discontinuing drug use. During a review hearing, she requested counsel, which the trial court found she was entitled to. However, the court never appointed an attorney and J.A. never mentioned her lack of representation at a future hearing.

J.A. later moved to her mother’s house in Virginia without notifying DCS and the plan for permanency and reunification was changed to adoption. The mother did not appear at the adoption hearings, but at some point counsel was appointed to represent her. Her attorney sought to dismiss or continue the case, arguing she had been deprived of her due process rights when an attorney wasn’t appointed during the CHINS case. J.A.’s parental rights were terminated.

“Mother argues that having counsel would have allowed her to inform the court of things such as her reasons for moving, the steps she was taking toward sobriety, and her current living arrangement with her mother. It is not clear why counsel was needed to inform the court, when Mother could have informed the court herself if she had appeared for the hearings,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote in In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of G.P., and J.A. v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 49A02-1208-JT-643.

“It was the sum total of Mother’s actions (or inaction) by the time of the termination hearing, nearly a year later, that ultimately led to termination. This included her continuing failure to complete services in that time period, her lack of communication with DCS, and the questionable appropriateness of the home that she could provide at that time,” she continued.

The COA found that J.A.’s due process rights weren’t violated and there was sufficient evidence to support the termination.

 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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