District of Columbia

ABUSE

HEARSAY

McRoy v. United States, 106 A.3d 1051 (D.C. 2015). Child victim’s video statement from child advocacy center forensic interview was improperly admitted as nonhearsay substantive evidence. Video, rather than live testimony, provided only substantive evidence supporting count of indictment regarding that victim. Admission of video recording was harmless as to counts of child sexual abuse involving other victims.

REGISTRIES

V.K. v. Child & Fam. Servs. Agency, 14 A.3d 628 (D.C. 2011). Hearing officer’s finding that father used excessive discipline on 13-year-old son, causing injuries, supported abuse finding  and entry of father’s name in child welfare agency’s child protection registry; father admitted using corporal punishment on son, son told social worker that father’s discipline caused scar on his cheek, and father’s explanations for physical marks on son’s body were vague and conflicted.

ADOPTION

BEST INTERESTS

In re T.W.M., 18 A.3d 815 (D.C. 2011). Trial court did not abuse discretion in granting foster parents’ petition to adopt over cousin’s competing petition, although cousin was parents’ preferred placement; court heard from numerous witnesses and expert witnesses and concluded that though all prospective parents were fit, removing the child from her foster home after six years would not be in her best interests.

REPRESENTATION

In re R.E.S., 19 A.3d 785 (D.C. 2011). Trial court properly found father had not established ineffective assistance of counsel where his attorney had not called relatives as witnesses; on remand from earlier appeal, trial court took new testimony and made detailed findings about why placement with father’s recommended relatives was not in daughter’s best interests showing that different outcome was unlikely had the attorney called them initially.

DELINQUENCY

CUSTODY

In re A.J., 63 A.3d 562 (D.C. 2013). Where youth was found delinquent due to unlawful possession of a gun, trial court improperly suppressed statement based on lack of Miranda warning. Youth was not in custody for Miranda purposes where he was not cuffed or otherwise restrained and officer told him he suspected him of being truant and offered to transport him home to corroborate his explanation for being out of school on a weekday.

SEIZURES

In re D.M., 94 A.3d 760 (D.C. 2014). Where juvenile was detained for a show-up identification lasting about 75 minutes, lower court erred in denying juvenile’s motion to suppress the identification. The government failed to meet its burden to prove the 75 minutes detention was reasonable for the officers to conduct their investigation. Juvenile was convicted of second-degree burglary, felony destruction of property, and second-degree theft. Juvenile had to wait for witness to identify him, supposedly because witness had to return to work, although there was no explanation of how far work was or when officers requested witness to go to the police station to identify the juvenile.

DEPENDENCY

ADOPTION

In re M.V.H., 2016 WL 4035429 (D.C. Ct. App.). After child was adjudicated neglected, foster mother and maternal grandmother filed competing adoption petitions. Juvenile court denied mother’s and grandmother’s motions for review of magistrate’s order granting foster mother’s petition. Record showing multiple broken bones while in grandmother’s care supported magistrate’s finding that grandmother was unfit to adopt child, and mother’s withholding consent to child’s adoption by foster mother was contrary to child’s best interest.

EMANCIPATION FUNDS

In re D.K., 26 A.3d 731 (D.C. 2011). Trial court lacked statutory authority to order child welfare agency to pay $1,800 in emancipation funds to neglected child on his 21st birthday; nothing in District’s child neglect statute mentioned cash upon emancipation and purpose of statutory provisions was child’s well-being and development during time in care.

FAILURE TO PROVIDE CARE

In re K.J., 11 A.3d 273 (D.C. 2011). Trial court correctly found that mother neglected her child because she did not make arrangements for a caregiver; though mother’s ability to provide for her daughter was limited by her incarceration, she still had a duty to ensure her child was cared for, and selection of a niece with no home or employment was not appropriate.

HEARSAY

In re M.F., 55 A.3d 373 (D.C. 2012). Child’s statements about abuse, entered through testimony of doctor, were inadmissible hearsay not falling within the medical diagnosis exception because the interview was completed primarily for the purpose of preparing for court, not diagnosis or treatment. Error was harmless however because the testimony was merely duplicative, other witnesses testified to the same information either with proper exceptions or without objection.

JUDICIAL OFFICERS

In re A.O.T., 10 A.3d 160 (D.C. 2010). Where parent did not consent to termination trial before magistrate, court should have assigned case to an associate judge per court rule; the Family Court Act’s “one family one judge” rule was not meant to be absolute and thus does not conflict with the prior court rule indicating that magistrates could only hear terminations with the consent of the parties and may be appropriate in some cases for judicial impartiality.

JURISDICTION

In re J.R., 33 A.3d 397 (D.C. 2011). District of Columbia trial court properly exercised jurisdiction over child under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act where child’s mother had been in District foster care for a decade. Though the mother had primarily been placed in foster homes in Maryland, and the child was born there, jurisdiction by the District of Columbia court was proper since the Maryland court declined jurisdiction, and the child had strong ties to the District.

LIABILITY

Doe v. District of Columbia, 2015 WL 4727142 (D.C.). 

Parents whose children were temporarily removed from home by child welfare agency without  warrant brought § 1983 and state law actions against District of Columbia and agency employees. Agency employees were entitled to qualified immunity from parents’ Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims arising from warrantless removal of children and were not liable for retaliation, invasion of privacy, or intentional infliction of emotional distress. Agency employees acted in good faith in removing children.

PARENTAL RIGHTS

In re D.S., 52 A.3d 887 (D.C. 2012). Trial court improperly ignored father’s parental presumption of fitness and placed children in agency custody after adjudicating children as abused by mother. Though agency had reservations about the size of father’s home and health problems, there was little proven at the disposition about how these factors negatively affected the children.

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

BEST INTERESTS

In re D.M., 86 A.3d 584 (D.C. 2014). Trial magistrate failed to give the required weighty consideration to the biological mother’s preference that her mother-in-law receive custody of her child if her parental rights were terminated. There was no clear and convincing evidence that mother-in-law was unfit to care for the child or that the arrangement was against the child’s best interest.