In a pair of cases before the Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday, parents argued that their due process rights were violated when a different magistrate reported findings and conclusions to the judge than the magistrate who heard the cases. The magistrate initially on the cases resigned before making reports to the juvenile court.
Father T.P. and mother K.G. each claimed that the orders terminating their parental rights violated Indiana law and their due process rights because the orders were based on the findings of Marion Superior Magistrate Larry Bradley, who did not preside over the evidentiary hearings. Bradley took the cases over after Magistrate Julianne Cartmel resigned.
In both cases, In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Rel. of: S.B., Ay.B., A.B. & K.G. (Minor Children), and K.G. (Mother) v. Marion County Dept. of Child Services, Child Advocates, Inc., 49A02-1303-JT-244; and In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Rel. of I.P., Minor Child and His Father, T.P.: T.P. (Father) v. Child Advocates, Inc., and Indiana Dept. of Child Services, 49A02-1303-JT-283, Judges John Baker, Ezra Friedlander and Nancy Vaidik upheld the termination of parental rights. They held the proposed termination orders do not violate Indiana law because the relevant statutory section – I.C. 33-23-5-9 – does not prohibit Bradley’s actions. Nothing in that section requires the reporting magistrate be the magistrate who presided over the evidentiary hearing.
In K.G.’s case, the court found the proposed order didn’t violate her due process rights because the underlying evidence was undisputed and didn’t require Bradley to make any credibility determinations. In T.P.’s case, the judges pointed out that Bradley carefully reviewed the record and T.P. did not identify any specific prejudice as a result of Bradley’s review and recommendation. In both cases, the parents were represented by counsel at the termination hearings.
Provisions of Indiana Trial Rule 63(A) would also allow Bradley to enter the proposed termination orders, the court ruled.
Last month, the COA ordered more proceedings in a termination case that also involved Cartmel and Bradley because the evidence was in conflict and credibility determinations had to be made.