July 06, 2018

Oklahoma

ABUSE

CONFRONTATION

Willis v. State, 2017 WL 3821913 (Okla. Ct. Crim. App.). Defendant had adequate opportunity to cross-examine witness at preliminary hearing before witness could not be located for trial, and therefore use of preliminary hearing testimony did not violate Confrontation Clause. Although charge against defendant changed to offering and/or soliciting sexual conduct with minor by use of technology, defense counsel on cross-examination had asked witness whether he believed girl in cell phone picture was real, whether defendant asked him for specific amount of money, and whether defendant ever specifically made plans to accept money from witness.

CUSTODY

REPRESENTATION

Jensen v. Poindexter, 2015 WL 3886092 (Okla.). Attorney for father in proceeding to establish paternity and determine custody suspected child was being abused by mother, the legal parent, and her husband but failed to report allegations as required by statute. Attorney interviewed unrepresented child about abuse allegations without legal parent’s consent. Court sustained mother’s motion to disqualify father’s attorney for making himself necessary witness to child’s credibility and harming integrity of judicial process.

DEPENDENCY

INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT

In re M.K.T., 2016 WL 236297 (Okla.). Child whose father was enrolled in the Cherokee Nation was placed with an ICWA-noncompliant family despite efforts by the tribe to provide temporary ICWA-compliant foster care. The trial court could consider harm to the child resulting from the tribe’s request to move the child to an ICWA-compliant home. The proper standard for a party showing a need for an ICWA-noncompliant child placement is clear and convincing evidence. FULL SUMMARY

MEDICAL CARE

Baby F. v. Oklahoma County Dist. Court, 2015 WL 1810398 (Okla.). Baby, in child welfare custody after termination of his parents’ rights, petitioned through his attorney to forbid trial court from authorizing change in his resuscitation status from “full code” to “allow natural death.” Court authorization for withdrawal of life-sustaining medical care for child in state custody requires best interests determination. Although baby died before case was resolved, case fell within recognized exceptions to mootness doctrine. 

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

JURY TRIALS

In re T.T.S., 2015 WL 3561526  (Okla.). Petition to terminate mother’s parental rights alleged she failed to provide appropriate parental care and placed child in threat of harm due to her drug abuse. Mother appealed based on failure to provide jurors with legally correct instructions and verdict forms. Court found the petition, jury instructions, verdict forms, and final order must include specific conditions parent failed to correct.

MENTAL ILLNESS

In re B.K., 398 P.3d 323 (Okla. 2017). As matter of first impression, trial court did not commit fundamental error by allowing child welfare agency to seek termination of mother’s parental rights based on her failure to correct delusional condition that led to child’s adjudication as dependent, even though agency could have alternatively proceeded based on mother’s diagnosed delusional persecution disorder. Mother was given notice of condition she needed to correct, provided assistance and services, and given reasonable period to do so. 

REINSTATEMENT OF RIGHTS

In re T.H., 2015 WL 1926287 (Okla.). Where child’s birth parents’ rights were terminated and, years later, adoptive parents’ rights were also terminated, three-year timeframe for failing to reach permanency under reinstatement statute could run from first termination order. To interpret statute to require another three years to run from second termination ran counter to overall intent of statute to promote timely permanence for all children. FULL SUMMARY