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In re Doe

Court of Appeals of Idaho

September 27, 2019

In the Interest of: John Doe I, A Child Under Eighteen (18)Years of Age.
v.
JOHN DOE (2019-12), Respondent-Appellant. STATE OF IDAHO, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,

          Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Andrew Ellis, Magistrate.

         Judgment terminating parental rights, affirmed.

          Ada County Public Defender; Joshua Wickard, Deputy Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; John R. Shackelford, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          Gratton, Chief Judge.

         John Doe appeals from the magistrate's judgment terminating Doe's parental rights. Doe argues the magistrate erred when it admitted a report of investigation into evidence over Doe's hearsay objection. Because substantial and competent evidence independent of the report supports the magistrate's findings that Doe neglected his child, we affirm the magistrate's judgment terminating Doe's parental rights.

         I.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A.B.'s father, John Doe, was arrested for domestic battery. Doe struck A.B. with a metal bat while A.B. was trying to protect his stepmother, who was the intended target. Doe was arrested, and A.B. remained in the care of his stepmother. However, later the same year, A.B.'s stepmother took him to a health clinic and told the staff she was no longer able to assume responsibility for the child. As Doe was in custody, A.B. was taken into foster care.

         A.B. was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and oppositional defiance disorder. A.B. was placed at the Patriot Center, a facility that addresses trauma and special needs. Doe was ordered to complete a case plan. The State filed a petition for the termination of Doe's parental rights after the six-month review hearing. The court subsequently held a trial on the petition, and Doe failed to appear but directed his counsel to contest the petition. At trial, the court heard testimony from A.B.'s case manager and admitted evidence that demonstrated Doe did not comply with any part of his case plan. Doe's attorney objected to the admission of the report of investigation as hearsay. The court responded that the objection was valid but "the legislature has determined and stated that this Court may admit any report, study or examination and rely upon it to the extent of its probative value, " and the report was admitted into evidence pursuant to Idaho Code § 16-2009. Following the hearing, the court determined it was in the best interest of A.B. to terminate the parental rights of Doe based on findings of neglect and abuse. Doe timely appeals.

         II.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A parent has a fundamental liberty interest in maintaining a relationship with his or her child. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000); Doe v. State, 137 Idaho 758, 760, 53 P.3d 341, 343 (2002). This interest is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State v. Doe, 144 Idaho 839, 842, 172 P.3d 1114, 1117 (2007). Implicit in the Termination of Parent and Child Relationship Act is the philosophy that, wherever possible, family life should be strengthened and preserved. I.C. § 16-2001(2). Therefore, the requisites of due process must be met when terminating the parent-child relationship. State v. Doe, 143 Idaho 383, 386, 146 P.3d 649, 652 (2006). Due process requires that the grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Id. Because a fundamental liberty interest is at stake, the United States Supreme Court has determined that a court may terminate a parent-child relationship only if that decision is supported by clear and convincing evidence. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 769 (1982); see also I.C. § 16-2009; In re Doe, 146 Idaho 759, 761-62, 203 P.3d 689, 691-92 (2009); Doe, 143 Idaho at 386, 146 P.3d at 652.

         III.

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