Posted on June 9th, 2009 No comments
In an order in lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals opinion and reinstated the May 15, 2008 order of the trial court terminating the respondent-mother’s parental rights to the minor children. The Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeals misapplied the “clear error” standard by substituting its judgment for that of the trial court, and rendered a decision contrary to the clear and convincing evidence supporting termination of the respondent’s parental rights pursuant to §§ 19b(3)(b)(ii) and (j). The Court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the Court’s order.
Click here to view or download the Supreme Court’s order: In re Hall (Supreme Court)
The Court of Appeals opinion was issued before this blog was started, so we do not have a previous article related to this case. Here is a summary of the Court of Appeals opinion:
The child protective proceedings began after respondent mother reported to the police her husband, F, had sexually abused her oldest daughter B. DHS filed a petition seeking termination of respondent mother’s parental rights to her three children and also sought to terminate the parental rights of the children’s fathers. The allegations in the petition included, inter alia, respondent told the police that B told her three weeks earlier that F had “touched her privates,” respondent mother confronted him, he said he was sorry, and cried. F left the home and a short time later returned and told respondent mother he would slow down on his drinking. Respondent mother stayed in the home with the children until the time she went to the police after she discovered F very intoxicated and alone with B. When confronted, F apparently admitted to also touching B two years earlier. In January 2008, he pleaded guilty to CSC IV.
Both fathers voluntarily relinquished their parental rights. The trial court terminated respondent mother’s parental rights after a trial pursuant to MCL 712A.19b(3)(b)(ii) [the parent who had the opportunity to prevent the physical or sexual abuse of a child failed to do so and a reasonable likelihood exists that the child will suffer injury or abuse in the foreseeable future if placed in the parent’s home], and (j) [given the parent’s conduct or capacity, the children likely would suffer harm if returned to the parent’s custody]. The trial court held respondent mother had the opportunity to prevent the sexual abuse of B, failed to do so, and the children would likely suffer injury or abuse if returned to her care. The CoA concluded the trial court clearly erred in finding clear and convincing evidence the children would likely suffer harm if returned to her care and entirely disregarded the testimony of the only witness who had first-hand information as to mother’s relationship with her children and her ability to parent them. The CoA noted the trial court expressed “strong opinions” in rejecting the witness’s testimony, had preconceived notions about the case, and ordered the case reassigned to a different judge.
In lieu of granting leave to appeal the Supreme Court issued an order reversing the Court of Appeals, noting only that the court substituted its own judgment for that of the trial court and rendered a decision contrary to evidence supporting termination. The Court of Appeals offered a 16 page opinion detailing its findings. The Supreme Court order does not explain exactly where the Court of Appeals substituted its own judgment and exactly what portions of its opinions are not suppored by the record below. Thus, there is not much we can learn from this case.
Click here to view or download the Opinion: In re Hall (Court of Appeals)