In re Ferranti

The respondents had several children together. Their youngest, a daughter, JF, was born in 2003. JF had spina bifida, and as a result, had trouble ambulating without the aid of a mobility device. Also related to spina bifida, JF has neurogenic bladder, and she must use a catheter to urinate. JF required medical care and supervision for her entire life. In October 2015, the petitioner, the Department of Health and Human Services (the Department), petitioned to remove JF from the respondents’ care. The Department alleged that the respondents had failed to adequately attend to JF’s medical needs. At a preadjudication status conference, respondents admitted certain things about their care of JF; these admissions allowed the trial court to exercise jurisdiction over JF. In taking the respondents’ pleas, the court did not advise them that they were waiving any rights. Nor did the court advise them of the consequences of their pleas. The court ultimately terminated respondents' parental rights to JF. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding In re Hatcher, 443 Mich 426 (1993), prohibited it from considering respondents’ claim that the trial court violated their due-process rights by failing to advise them of the consequences of their pleas. The Michigan Supreme Court held the Hatcher rule rested on the legal fiction that a child protective proceeding was two separate actions: the adjudication and the disposition. "With that procedural (mis)understanding, we held that a posttermination appeal of a defect in the adjudicative phase is prohibited because it is a collateral attack. This foundational assumption was wrong; Hatcher was wrongly decided, and we overrule it." It reversed the Court of Appeals, vacated the trial court's order of adjudication and order terminating the respondents’ parental rights, and remanded this case to the trial court for further proceedings. Because the trial court violated the respondents’ due-process rights by conducting an unrecorded, in camera interview of the subject child before the court’s resolution of the termination petition, a different judge was ordered to preside on remand. View "In re Ferranti" on Justia Law