In re Termination of Tre.S, No. 19A-JT-2915, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. Ct. App., May 27, 2020).

Vaidik, J.

Case Summary

A.S. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her parental rights to her children, arguing that her due-process rights were violated when the trial court denied her attorney’s emergency motion to continue and held the termination hearing without her attorney present. The State concedes that Mother’s due-process rights were violated. We reverse the termination order and once again remind trial-level DCS attorneys and trial courts that they have a duty to ensure that parents’ due-process rights in termination cases are not violated.

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…While we commended DCS for conceding error, we said we were “obligated to formally admonish DCS for its failure to afford litigants throughout this state the due process rights they are owed.” Id. We also reminded “the trial courts throughout this state of their duty to ensure that litigants’ due process rights are not violated.” Id.; see also In re J.K., 110 N.E.3d 1164, 1166 (Ind. Ct. App. 2018).

Nearly two years after we issued this order, DCS continues to file motions to remand conceding that parents’ due-process rights have been violated. This unfortunately means that throughout this state, there continues to be significant violations of parents’ due-process rights in termination-of-parental-rights cases. This case is just one example. The trial court set the termination hearing for October 1, but the case was moved up because the pre-adoptive parents wanted it finalized sooner. On August 6, the court rescheduled the hearing for approximately two weeks later, August 21. On the day of the hearing, Mother’s attorney filed an emergency motion to continue because she thought the hearing was still set for October 1 and was at an all-day mediation training. Indeed, the record is unclear whether Mother’s attorney was even notified of the August 21 hearing date. The court denied the motion to continue and held the hearing without Mother or her attorney present, knowingly disregarding Mother’s rights. Both the court and DCS knew that they were committing due-process violations and proceeded with the hearing anyway. This must stop. We therefore reverse the termination order and issue yet another reminder to trial-level DCS attorneys and trial courts that they have a duty to ensure that parents’ due-process rights in termination cases are not violated.

Reversed and remanded.

May, J., and Robb, J., concur.

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