The state supreme court says a Jasper County circuit judge’s ruling in an adoption case constituted a “manifest injustice” and has sent the case back to the circuit court for a new trial.
The final footnote of the opinion says:
“Every member of this Court agrees that this case is a travesty in its egregious procedural errors, its long duration, and its impact on Mother, Adoptive Parents, and, most importantly, Child.”
The opinion says the judge in the case failed to comply with state law requiring an investigation of whether the mother had abandoned her son. The ruling orders the circuit judge to order the investigation, and to set a trial date no later than 90 days after it gets reports of the findings.
The natural mother of the child is a Guatemalen citizen illegally in this country. She entrusted the child to family members while she served prison time for her illegal presence here. Testimony before the Supreme Court showed that a minister and his wife who were providing daycare for the boyafter the mother went to prison contacted members of his congregation who got court approval to adopt the child.
One of the Supreme Court judges says the mother was not given notice of a custody hearing, and says her lawyer was involved in a conflict of interest because the lawyer had been picked by the adoptive parent’s family.
Another member of the court says there is no reason for a new termination hearing because there is no evidence the mother willfully neglected the child before the adoption. But the ruling’s final footnote says, “The dissenting members of this Court rely significantly on information outside the record to find that Mother has been victimized repeatedly and that her rights have been violated. The dissenting members believe passionately that custody of Child should be returned to Mother without further proceedings. That result can be reached only by disregarding the law.
“The majority of this Court, instead, grants relief for the proven errors as permitted by law. Yet, this Court, in fairness, exercised its discretion as allowed by law to ensure that Mother receives her right to a trial on the merits, with effective counsel, that comports with the statutory requirements. This Court was not required by law to allow Mother to file her appeal out of time, nor was this Court required by law to review the Mother’s unpreserved errors by plain error review.
“This Court makes no suggestion as to who will or should prevail on remand. Rather, this opinion ensures that both Mother and Adoptive Parents will have a full and fair trial that respects Mother’s fundamental rights and the best interests of the Child.”