Parents whose parental rights have been terminated not entitled to delayed appeal, rules Ohio Supreme Court

Court News Ohio reports that the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled yesterday that a parent whose parental rights have been terminated in court proceedings are not entitled to a delayed appeal pursuant to Ohio Appellate Rule 5(A). Generally, under Ohio Appellate Rule 3, appeals must be made within 30 days of an order of the court. Ohio Appellate Rule 5(A), however, provides circumstances in which certain parties may file an appeal after this 30 day period has elapsed. Covered by this rule are defendants in criminal proceedings, delinquency proceedings and serious youthful offender proceedings.

The case before the Court involved a mother (appellant) whose parental rights were terminated after ongoing problems with child neglect, including failure to provide appropriate medical care for her child with a cleft palate. The juvenile court awarded temporary custody of the child to Family and Children Services of Clark County (FCSCC) in December 2011. In a hearing in December 2012 the mother surrendered her parental rights. The foster family caring for the child gained permanent custody of him in February 2013 and the adoption was completed in August 2013. Days after the adoption was finalized the appellant filed a notice of appeal and motion for leave to file a delayed appeal. She argued that she was entitled to a delayed appeal to protect her due process rights because of the important civil right to care for her children and because terminating parental rights was a severe legal intrusion into the sanctity of the family. The Second District denied her motion, and she appealed.

In a 6-1 decision penned by Justice Lanzinger, the Ohio Supreme Courtruled that the appellant was not entitled to file a delayed appeal pursuant to Ohio Appellate Rule 5(A). In reaching its decision, the Court applied a test prescribed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case ofMathews v. Eldrige (1976), weighing the private interest affected, the risk of erroneous deprivation of that interest through the procedures used and probable value of any additional safeguards added, and the government interest in continuing the same procedure. The Court found that while the mother had a "significant private interest" in the care, custody and control of her child, the child's interest in being placed in a "stable, secure and nurturing home without undue delay" had to be weighed as well, and that the uncertainty that delayed appeals could cause could be detrimental to the child.

The Court also found a minimal risk of erroneous deprivation underMatthews in light of the facts that the mother had been represented by counsel throughout the proceedings, had voluntarily surrendered her rights and had participated in a hearing where all the required statutory findings were made. Finally, the Court considered the government's interest in the welfare of the child, finding that "to allow delayed appeals for a parent whose parental rights have been terminated would inject further uncertainty into the process of placing the child in a permanent home and postpone resolution of custody, contrary to the child’s best interest." The Court upheld the ruling of the Second District.

The full-text of the decision can be found here. Docket information about this case is available here and here.