Case Law Update: 03 Apr 2009

In re W.J. Jr. (Unpub'd), No. E046533

W.J. Jr. (then 7) was detained in 2008 following W.J. (father)'s arrest for domestic violence which left both C.P. (father's girlfriend) and the minor with visible injuries. (The minor was struck by a telephone thrown by C.P. during the altercation). Father admitted to drinking daily and refused to stop; however, he alleged that he did not get drunk or abuse alcohol. Father stated that some people reportedly believed that he had a drinking problem, although he denied it. Father also denied any current drug use. Father subsequently pled guilty to a charge of willful cruelty to a child. The SSA filed a petition under 300 W&IC alleging failure to protect by father in that he engaged in acts of domestic violence in minor's presence, failed to protect minor from violence inflicted by C.P., and had substance abuse issues exposing minor to the risk of serious harm or neglect. The court ordered minor detained. At a juris/dispo hearing, the juvenile count found all allegations in the petition true and found minor came under the court's jurisdiction. The court further found that continuance in father's home was contrary to minor's welfare and that clear and convincing evidence supported removal from father's custody in that there was a substantial danger to the minor's physical health, safety, protection, and physical and emotional well-being if returned home.

Father appealed, contending that there was insufficient causal link between the father's behavior and any risk of harm posed to the minor, and that the remoteness in time between the triggering incident and the dispositional order adversely affects the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's determination. The appellate court noted that the evidence showed a pattern of domestic violence, as well as father's refusal to participate in services (including drug testing), and that thus "the juvenile court could not order custody with father under strict supervision because it had no evidence father would comply with its orders to ensure minor's safety." Accordingly, the appeal was denied and the juvenile court's orders affirmed.

Opinion: E046533.PDF, E046533.DOC

In re K.M. et al. (Unpub'd), No. C058307

L.M.-H., the mother of K.M., T.M., L.M., and B.M. (the minors), appealed following juvenile court orders sustaining allegations with respect to the children (aged 14, 15, 15, and 17, respectively), who were detained following allegations of physical abuse toward L.M., including repeated stabbings, striking L.M. with various objects including a hammer, a broomstick, and a stick, and keeping L.M. locked in a closet, and evidence of past physical abuse of the other children. At the juris/dispo hearing, the juvenile court sustained the allegations in the amended petitions and denied reunification services, ordering emancipation as the permanent plan goal for the minors. The court also issued an order allowing her only letter contact with K.M. and T.M.

Mother appealed, contending that the juvenile court abused its discretion by allowing her only letter contact with K.M. and T.M. When the appeal was filed, the appellate court requested supplemental briefing to address whether the court made any oral order regarding visitation with respect to K.M. and T.M. and, if not, whether the court's written visitation order accurately reflects the court's intent regarding visitation. The appellate court then found that there was "no actual articulation" of visitation orders with regards to K.M. and T.M., and that the Department's recommended orders (which were adopted by the court), which included an order for regular visitation with K.M., T.M., and B.M., were thus in conflict with the court's oral order regarding B.M. Accordingly, the appellate court remanded to the juvenile court to clarify its visitation orders relative to K.M. and T.M., and to modify its visitation order relative to B.M. to "conform to the visitation order pronounced by the court at the dispositional hearing." In all other aspects, the lower court's orders were affirmed.

Opinion: C058307.PDF, C058307.DOC

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