A judge erred when she did not hold a hearing to determine whether it was in the best interests of a child to terminate her father's parental rights before doing so, the State Court of Appeals ruled this week.
District IV Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne F. Kloppenburg reversed Waupaca County Circuit Judge Vicki L. Clussman's decision and sent the case back to circuit court so the hearing can be held.
The case is similar to one decided last month by the State Supreme Court, which ruled that the defense should have been allowed to present a case before a judge terminated parental rights.
In the appeals court case, the girl's father was arrested on child pornography charges less than a week after the girl's birth, Kloppenburg wrote in her decision. He eventually was convicted of nine counts of possession of child pornography and is serving an eight-year prison confinement and eight years of extended supervision.
The girl's mother, identified only as S.D. – who does not want the father to have contact with their daughter – acknowledged that Clussman erred when she terminated the father's parental rights without holding the dispositional hearing. The mother agreed the case should be sent back to Circuit Court for the hearing, Kloppenburg said.
"In light of the agreement between the parties, I reverse the order terminating (the father's) parental rights and remand to the circuit court for it to conduct a dispositional hearing," Kloppenburg wrote.
The judge rejected the father's argument that his lawyer was ineffective.
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