Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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Jane Doe (2018-24) (“Mother”) appealed a magistrate court’s decision to terminate her parental rights over her daughter (“K.O.”) on grounds of neglect after finding it was in K.O.’s best interest. On appeal Mother contested the magistrate court’s findings that: (1) early permanency for K.O. was appropriate and a continuance of trial was not warranted; and (2) that mother neglected K.O. and it was in the best interest of K.O. to terminate Mother’s rights. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found the magistrate court did not abuse its discretion in failing to continue the trial. Additionally, substantial and competent evidence, to a clear and convincing standard, supported the magistrate court’s decision that Mother neglected K.O. and it was in K.O.’s best interest to terminate Mother’s parental rights. View "IDHW v. Jane Doe (2018-24)" on Justia Law

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John Doe was the biological father of minor child, J.G. J.G. was conceived in Oklahoma about a month before Doe began serving a thirty-five year prison sentence. J.G. was born in 2011. Doe saw J.G. one time when she was less than twenty months old when someone brought the child to the prison to see him. J.G. and her mother moved to Idaho in approximately 2013. In August 2016, law enforcement removed J.G. and her half-brother from their mother’s care and placed them in shelter care after determining they were in imminent danger. After an adjudicatory hearing, the magistrate court determined it was in the best interest of the children to vest legal custody in the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Eventually the Department and the guardian ad litem for J.G. recommended termination of Mother and Doe’s parental rights. Doe’s termination hearing took place in January 2018. The magistrate court determined that Doe will likely be incarcerated for a substantial period of time during J.G.’s minority and that termination was in the child’s best interest. Doe appealed. But the Idaho Supreme Court concurred with the magistrate court that there was substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate court’s determination that Doe would likely be incarcerated during a substantial period of time during J.G.’s minority and that termination was in the child’s best interests. View "Health & Welfare v. John Doe (2018-17)" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on the guardianship of a ten-year-old child, Jane Doe II (“Jane”). Both of Jane’s parents passed away in 2017. Thereafter, a family friend with whom Jane and her mother had been living, (“Friend”), petitioned for guardianship. Jane’s father’s twin sister (“Aunt”) also petitioned for guardianship. During proceedings the magistrate court appointed a local attorney, Auriana Clapp-Younggren, to serve as both the attorney and the guardian ad litem for Jane. After trial, the magistrate court followed Clapp-Younggren’s recommendation and awarded temporary guardianship to Friend so that Jane could finish the school year, but appointed Aunt as Jane’s permanent guardian. Friend appealed the magistrate court decision. The Supreme Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by failing to conduct a reasonable inquiry into whether Jane possessed sufficient maturity to direct her own attorney. Here, the magistrate court checked two boxes on the form order appointing Clapp- Younggren: one box appointed her as the attorney for Jane and the other appointed her as Jane’s guardian ad litem. Friend later filed a motion for the magistrate court to appoint an attorney for Jane under Idaho Code section 15-5-207(7). This motion was accompanied by an affidavit of a psychotherapist who testified that Jane possessed sufficient maturity to direct her own attorney. However, the judge denied the motion simply stating “I’m denying the motion. Ms. Clapp-Younggren is going to represent [Jane’s] interests in the case.” The magistrate court judge gave no explanation for why he was denying the request. The record also reflects that the magistrate court made no effort to determine Jane’s maturity level. The final decree appointing Aunt as Jane’s permanent guardian is vacated and the case is remanded so that the magistrate court can conduct a hearing to determine whether Jane possesses sufficient maturity to direct her own attorney prior to the new trial. View "In the Interest of Jane Doe II (under 18 years)" on Justia Law

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Amelia Johnson, fka Boe (Mother), brought a permissive appeal seeking to challenge custody and support orders issued by the magistrate court in hers and Erik Boe's divorce. Mother and Father divorced in 2010 and, at that time, stipulated to a joint-custody arrangement regarding their two minor children, L.R.B. and L.E.B. (collectively, the Children). That custody arrangement governed until 2015, when Father relocated from Southeast Boise to Meridian. The moved caused disputes over physical and legal custody, which schools the Children should attend, and issues pertaining to child support. A two-year course of litigation ensued, with Mother and Father ultimately stipulating to a partial judgment that resolved physical custody and trying issues concerning legal custody, the Children’s schools, and child support to the magistrate court. As relevant here, the magistrate court ruled that the Children were to attend the schools assigned to Father’s Meridian, Idaho home (the Meridian Schools), and that Mother and Father were each entitled to one dependency exemption. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined Mother's challenges concerning physical custody were moot: the challenges themselves did not create a real, substantial controversy for the Court to resolve. Further, the Court determined the magistrate court did not err by assigning the Children to the Meridian Schools, nor did it abuse discretion in allocating the two dependency exemptions. View "Boe v. Boe" on Justia Law

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Marya Woods (Mother) appealed the denial of her petition for modification of the custody schedule for her two minor children: H.W. (Son) and T.W. (Daughter). Both Karl Woods (Father) and Mother sought to modify the schedule. The magistrate court denied both parents’ petitions to modify based upon its finding that there existed no substantial, permanent, or material changes that warranted modification of the custody arrangement. On appeal, Mother argued the magistrate court abused its discretion in finding no substantial or material change existed. Finding no reversible error in the magistrate court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed: the magistrate court’s finding that there was no substantial and material change in circumstance was supported by substantial and competent evidence. View "Woods v. Woods" on Justia Law

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Both of ten-year-old Jane Doe II’s parents passed away in 2017. A family friend with whom Jane and her mother had been living (“Friend”) petitioned for guardianship of Jane. Jane’s father’s twin sister (“Aunt”) also petitioned for guardianship. During proceedings the magistrate court appointed a local attorney, Auriana Clapp-Younggren (“Clapp-Younggren”), to serve as both the attorney and the guardian ad litem for Jane. After trial the magistrate court followed Clapp-Younggren’s recommendation and awarded temporary guardianship to Friend so that Jane could finish the school year, but appointed Aunt as Jane’s permanent guardian. Friend appealed the magistrate court decision. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by failing to conduct a reasonable inquiry into whether Jane possessed sufficient maturity to direct her own attorney. The final decree appointing Aunt as Jane’s permanent guardian was vacated and the case was remanded so that the magistrate court can conduct a hearing to determine whether Jane possessed sufficient maturity to direct her own attorney prior to a new trial. View "In the Interest of Jane Doe II (under 18)" on Justia Law

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L.P. and E.P. were half-siblings who lived with their maternal grandmother until her sudden death. The Department of Health & Welfare filed a petition for custody of the children under the Child Protection Act (CPA) and placed both children in the home of the Does, E.P.’s paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. The Department submitted a permanency plan identifying the goal of termination of parental rights and adoption by relative. Early in 2015, the magistrate court approved the permanency plan. After several months of tension between the Does and L.P., the Department acceded to the Does’ request that L.P. be removed from their home. The Department did not inform the magistrate court of the change in circumstances for several months. Following a trial on issues of neglect, abandonment, and consent, the magistrate entered an order terminating the parental rights to both children. The Department was designated as guardian of both children. The Does moved to intervene in the CPA case. The magistrate judge denied the motion. The court then entered an order prohibiting the Department from removing E.P. from the Does’ home without court approval. In early 2016, the Department filed a report and an expert’s sibling assessment that concluded the children should be placed together because of the strong attachment between them. In September 2016, the Department filed a post-termination permanency plan that requested a change in the permanency goal from adoption by relative to adoption by non-relative. Due to factual deficiencies, the magistrate judge rejected that amended permanency plan. In January 2017, the Department filed a second amended permanency plan that sought to move forward with adoption of both children by L.P.’s non-relative foster parents. After a comprehensive review of the case, the magistrate court rejected the amended permanency plan with regard to E.P. but approved it with regard to L.P., removed the Department as guardian of E.P., and appointed Jane Doe as E.P.’s guardian. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by disregarding the sibling placement priority and the Department’s primary role when considering the permanency plans. Furthermore, the Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by preventing the Department from removing E.P. from the Does’ home and terminating the Department's guardianship over E.P. All magistrate court orders with regard to E.P. were vacated, and on remand, this case was ordered to be assigned to a new magistrate judge for further proceedings. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. Does I" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the magistrate court in an expedited appeal regarding the termination of John Doe (2017-32)'s parental rights. John Doe is the father of minor children KB and AB (the “Children”). The Children entered the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (“IDHW”) custody in December 2014 after the Twin Falls Police declared them to be in imminent danger. The Children were in their mother’s (“Mother”) care when the police arrested her for possession of a controlled substance. Law enforcement described the condition of Mother’s home at this time as “filthy, cluttered, and containing numerous safety hazards, including raw sewage being present in the basement.” An Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) case plan, filed January 2015, included number of enumerated tasks for both Doe and Mother to complete in order for them to reunite with the Children. The case plan sought to provide Doe and Mother a framework to address “stable housing, sanitary living conditions, the need to obtain controlled substance abuse treatment, to remain clean/sober, and [to] stay out of jail.” Mother relapsed within weeks of a December 2016 order and was arrested for felony possession, kicked out of Drug Court, and went to prison. IDHW sought to terminate Doe and Mother’s parental rights. Doe had not completed his required drug treatment regimen by a first trial, he became more actively involved in his treatment plan by the time of a second trial. Doe showed other encouraging signs between the first and second trial as well, including significant progress on his case plan. However, the magistrate court noted that, despite progress, Doe still had not completed his case plan nor reunified with his children in the intervening period between the first and second trial. The court issued a Memorandum Decision granting termination of Doe and Mother’s parental rights on October 2, 2017, and entered a corresponding judgment ten days later on October 12, 2017. Mother did not appeal, but Doe timely filed his notice of appeal. The Supreme Court found the magistrate court’s December 2016 order stating that termination was not in the Children’s best interest was irreconcilable with IDHW’s first official recommendation following that order that termination “remains” in the Children’s best interest. The magistrate court’s October 2017 decision following the second trial highlighted Doe’s failure to reunify with the Children as a substantial factor in his ultimate decision to terminate. The magistrate court’s procedural error in not entering judgment for Doe and dismissing the petition upon finding that termination was not in the Children’s best interest affected Doe’s fundamental rights in this case. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. John Doe (2017-32)" on Justia Law

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John Doe (Father) appealed a decision to terminate his parental rights to his minor child Jane Doe II (Child). The magistrate court terminated Father’s parental rights on a petition from Child’s Stepfather and Mother, Jane Doe I (Mother), after finding that Father had abandoned Child and termination was in Child’s best interest. On appeal, Father argued that the magistrate court’s findings are not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Father testified that he was incarcerated for having sex with three girls that were underage. Father also testified that he may not be released from prison for an additional thirteen years. Father testified that Child may not even remember or recognize him. Father further testified about the satisfactory nature of Child’s care with Mother. With this evidence in the record, the magistrate court’s finding that termination was in the best interest of Child is supported by substantial and competent evidence of Father’s conduct, both before and after incarceration. Further, the magistrate’s legal conclusion to terminate Father’s parental rights follows from its factual findings. Finding no abuse of discretion or reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed termination. View "Jane Doe I v. John Doe (2017-31)" on Justia Law

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John Doe (Father) appealed a decision to terminate his parental rights to his minor child Jane Doe II (Child). The magistrate court terminated Father’s parental rights on a petition from Child’s Stepfather and Mother, Jane Doe I (Mother), after finding that Father had abandoned Child and termination was in Child’s best interest. On appeal, Father argued that the magistrate court’s findings are not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Father testified that he was incarcerated for having sex with three girls that were underage. Father also testified that he may not be released from prison for an additional thirteen years. Father testified that Child may not even remember or recognize him. Father further testified about the satisfactory nature of Child’s care with Mother. With this evidence in the record, the magistrate court’s finding that termination was in the best interest of Child is supported by substantial and competent evidence of Father’s conduct, both before and after incarceration. Further, the magistrate’s legal conclusion to terminate Father’s parental rights follows from its factual findings. Finding no abuse of discretion or reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed termination. View "Jane Doe I v. John Doe (2017-31)" on Justia Law