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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. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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