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Statute must be followed in all CHINS cases

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The Indiana Court of Appeals today affirmed the involuntary termination of parental rights of a mother and father, but cautioned the Marion County Department of Child Services to continue to follow the statutory procedures in child in need of services cases and termination cases even if a court determines reunification efforts aren't required.

In In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of C.T.; D.B., father, and K.T., mother v. Marion County Department of Child Services and Child Advocates, No. 49A02-0803-JV-231, Kristie Thompson and Dennis Brown appealed the juvenile court's termination of their respective parental rights over their infant son, C.T. The boy had been deemed a CHINS after he tested positive for cocaine at birth.

In June 2007, the Marion County Department of Child Services requested it no longer be required to make reasonable efforts to reunify Thompson with C.T. and filed a petition to terminate both parents' rights in September 2007. Brown wasn't present at the hearing because he was incarcerated; his motion for a continuance until he was released from prison was denied.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights, finding clear and convincing evidence there is a reasonable probability the conditions resulting in C.T.'s placement out of his parents' care wouldn't be remedied. Thompson testified she didn't use drugs despite the fact her other children had tested positive for drugs at birth, and she failed to receive treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Brown was in and out of prison during the CHINS proceedings for C.T. and failed to communicate with his attorney or with a family case manager regarding the case.

The appellate court also found Brown wasn't denied due process when the court denied his motion for continuance, finding he was represented by counsel during the proceedings and his lack of communication with his attorney invited the alleged error of which he now complains, wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

The Court of Appeals also addressed a serious concern raised by Thompson in her appeal - MCDCS failed to perform basic case management tasks once the juvenile court determined reasonable efforts to reunify her with C.T. weren't required.

Two of Thompson's caseworkers testified they hadn't visited Thompson at her home or inquired about her employment or services she completed after being released from prison. A parent's constitutionally protected right to raise his or her children doesn't go away once a court determines a department of child services isn't required to make reasonable efforts to reunify the family, wrote the judge.

The county departments of child services play an integral part in ensuring procedural safeguards are followed so parents receive a full and fair hearing before a termination may occur, and the comments and actions of Thompson's caseworkers aren't condoned by the appellate court or sanctioned by statute, wrote Judge Barnes.

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  1. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  2. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  3. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  4. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  5. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

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