Doe v. Mitchell, 1

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Citation244 N.W.2d 827,397 Mich. 225
Docket NumberNo. 1,1
PartiesMr. and Mrs. John DOE, custodial and adoptive (pending) parents of Maria Sophia Weldon, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Hon. Philip H. MITCHELL, Probate Judge of Barry County, Michigan, acting in Monroe County, Michigan, on the Order of the Michigan Supreme Court Administrator's Office, Lansing, Michigan, and Dahlari H. Weldon, mother of Maria Sophia Weldon, Defendants-Appellees. 397 Mich. 225, 244 N.W.2d 827
Decision Date25 August 1976

Page 827

244 N.W.2d 827
397 Mich. 225 Mr. and Mrs. John DOE, custodial and adoptive
(pending) parents of Maria Sophia Weldon,
Hon. Philip H. MITCHELL, Probate Judge of Barry County,
Michigan, acting in Monroe County, Michigan, on the Order of
the Michigan Supreme Court Administrator's Office, Lansing,
Michigan, and Dahlari H. Weldon, mother of Maria Sophia
Weldon, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 1.
397 Mich. 225, 244 N.W.2d 827
Supreme Court of Michigan.
Aug. 25, 1976.

[397 MICH 239] Thomas E. Griffin, Jr., Monroe, Frederick B. Bellamy, Alan G. Gilchrist, Southfield, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Gabe Kaimowitz, Michigan Legal Services, Detroit, for defendants-appellees.

COLEMAN, Justice.

Maria Sophia Weldon, born on October 18, 1971 is caught in a web of legal strands spun between the parallel tracks of state and Federal courts. She has lived with would-be adoptive parents, 1 Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, since [397 MICH 241] September 7, 1972. For four years she has been the focal point of legal battles in several arenas. 2 There was no appeal or petition for rehearing in the state courts during the statutory periods. The initial attack was collaterally brought in Federal district court where the last extant

Page 828

order was a declaratory judgment in equity.

Respondent Dahlari was present and represented by counsel throughout probate court proceedings and represented by counsel in each review. Circumvention of state remedies at the outset of review has resulted in a most complex situation, but the matter has been exquisitely explored.

Plaintiffs now appeal from the Court of Appeals denial of leave to appeal from a circuit court order returning Maria to her natural mother. Both decisions were predicated in part upon Federal district court orders, of which one was reversed. This Court must determine the important issues involving Michigan law. We must establish a reliable factual base, address constitutional concerns, clarify Michigan juvenile law concepts and procedure in termination hearings, determine the rights of the parties, analyze the Child Custody Act and provide Maria some hope of a stable home by bringing the state process to an end.

397 MICH 242

Resume of Facts

Initial Proceedings

On October 18, 1971--14 year old Dahlari H. Weldon gave birth to Maria Sophia (father unknown).

June 9, 1972--During Dahlari's adjudication hearing on a delinquency petition filed by youth officer Elizabeth Harrington and at the time of the later disposition hearing, testimony was presented that she is the mother of Maria. She was in shelter care, her family was divided and in a chaotic condition. Although Dahlari had had no pre-natal care and had a venereal disease, the boby had not been examined (or immunized) in the 8 months since birth. Dahlari's mother, Norma Weldon, resisted a court medical examination of Maria ordered by the judge.

June 9, 1972--The sheriff filed a dependent/neglect petition (hereinafter denominated D/N) as to Maria. Norma Weldon left the state with baby Maria and returned to her residence in Bowling Green, Ohio.

June 15, 1972--A juvenile hearing was held in Wood County, Ohio regarding Maria. Maria was ordered released to Monroe County probate court and placed in temporary custody pending hearing on the D/N petition.

June 19, 1972--Dahlari was served with notice of hearing on the D/N petition, including notice that parental rights could be terminated.

July 11, 1972--Adjudication hearing was held on the D/N petition. Dahlari was present and represented by counsel. Grandmother, Norma was not present but represented by counsel. Grandfather Frank Weldon was present but not represented by counsel. Maria was represented by counsel.

[397 MICH 243] Jurisdiction of Monroe County probate court over Maria was established and the matter adjourned to allow Dahlari and her parents more time to establish and present a plan for Maria (who was continued in foster care) by 15 days before the adjourned date so that investigation and verification could be effected prior to the hearing. (This was not done.)

August 11, 1972--Dispositional hearing was held as to Maria; Dahlari and attorney were present. Attorney for Norma Weldon was present and on record claimed to represent both of the grandparents. Frank Weldon and attorney for Maria also were present. 3

After testimony, attorneys for Dahlari and her parents asked the disposition be 'held in abeyance' pending a request for investigation of the Bowling Green home and supervision by the Wood County, Ohio court. They had not previously so requested nor presented a concrete plan to the caseworker since the adjudication hearing.

In connection with the request, the attorneys asked that Dahlari be released to her parents in order to establish a home for Maria. The judge temporarily released

Page 829

Dahlari for return with her parents to Ohio. 4

The matter of Maria was taken under advisement.

August 29, 1972--Dahlari was picked up by police back in Monroe County. Parents had requested a missing persons alert.

September 5, 1972--A letter was received from [397 MICH 244] James E. Thompson (Wood County juvenile court) to Shirlie Friess (Monroe County probate court) conveying the court's refusal to supervise the Weldon home and stating that there were no suitable relatives in Wood County for placement of Dahlari and Maria.

September 7, 1972--Maria was placed in the foster home of Mr. and Mrs. John Doe.

September 12, 1972--Order was entered terminating Dahlari's parental rights.

September 15, 1972--Order of termination was served on Dahlari.

September 18, 1972--By letter, attorney for Norma Weldon acknowledged receipt of order of termination and advised his client regarding appeal or reconsideration of the case.

February 6, 1973--Report of court investigation of the Doe home was filed and consent was executed by the court to the adoption of Maria by the John Does.

May 2, 1973--Almost eight months after termination of parental rights and three months after the probate court consented to the adoption of Maria, Dahlari filed suit in Federal district court alleging a violation of the Civil Rights Act in her Monroe County delinquency hearings and in the hearings which led to a termination of parental rights. An avalanche of judicial activity followed as described below.

July 20, 1973--At the Federal district court's suggestion, the parties agreed to file a petition for rehearing. This was denied by the assigned probate judge on the basis that the state statutory period for rehearing had expired three months after termination order and the court had no jurisdiction. 5

[397 MICH 245] September 25, 1973--The Federal district court declared the Monroe County neglect proceedings as to Maria void and ordered a probate court hearing within 30 days.

October 22 and 25, 1973--Another assigned probate judge heard a different petition (not a rehearing) pursuant to federal court order. 6 He said:

'(T)his is not a rehearing of any material which was before Judge Seitz at the time he heard the case in June of 1972 . . . That all we are doing is determining that as of the conclusion of this hearing here, there has been insufficient

Page 830

testimony to warrant this Court assuming jurisdiction over this child, as a neglected child. I in no way am attempting to interfere with any rights which have been acquired by the adopting parents, or any orders which might have been entered in this Court . . ..' (Emphasis added.)

He dismissed the petition and ordered that all prior orders remain in full force and effect.

[397 MICH 246] November 3, 1973--The Does filed a complaint for superintending control in circuit court and petition for custody under the Child Custody Act.

March 6, 1974--While an appeal from the Federal district court order was pending in the Sixth Circuit Court, Monroe County Circuit Court found the Federal court order res judicata and declared all probate proceedings void, including adoption proceedings. It also found the Child Custody Act, M.C.L.A. § 722.21 Et seq.; M.S.A. § 25.312(1) Et seq., to be inapplicable. It ordered Maria returned to Dahlari. This order was stayed by the Michigan Court of Appeals pending emergency application for leave to appeal.

April 19, 1974--Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district court 'did not have jurisdiction under 42 USC 1983 and 28 USC 1343 to review and set aside the probate court's proceedings and to order the probate court to conduct another hearing' and therefore reversed the Federal district court order which had found the proceedings void and which had ordered a new hearing. The case was remanded.

July 24, 1974--The Federal district court entered a declaratory judgment in equity finding failure of procedural due process and retained jurisdiction 'pending conclusion of litigation in the courts of the State of Michigan'.

August 11, 1974--Appeal was filed in Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals from the Federal district court order of July 24, 1974.

August 28, 1974--Michigan Court of Appeals denied plaintiffs leave to appeal the Michigan circuit court order because of the July 24, 1974 Federal district court order and vacated circuit court's stay of the order to return the baby to Dahlari providing order to enter.

[397 MICH 247] September 10, 1974--Michigan Supreme Court granted stay of order of Monroe circuit court dated March 6, 1974.

January 24, 1975--Michigan Supreme Court granted leave to appeal.

Status of Proceedings

The action for superintending control or custody under the Michigan Child Custody Act filed by plaintiffs in the circuit court is the only matter here on appeal. It is not a 'matter' before the Federal courts. The parties are different. 7 It contains questions of state law and procedure quite distinct from and in addition to those presented in Federal district court.

Although briefs and oral arguments weave in and out of collateral testimony allegedly given...

To continue reading

Request your trial
27 cases
  • Clausen, In re, s. 96366
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 8, 1993
    ......and . Cara and Daniel Schmidt, Defendants-Appellants. . Nos. 96366, 96441, 96531 and 96532. . Calendar Nos. 1"-2. . Supreme Court of Michigan. . Argued June 3, 1993. . Decided July 2, 1993. . Dissenting opinion by Justice Levin, July 8, 1993. . Page 650 . \xC2"......
  • Hunter v. Hunter, Docket No. 136310.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 31, 2009
    ...other reasons). 48. Deel, 113 Mich.App. at 561-562, 317 N.W.2d 685, quoting Bahr, 60 Mich.App. at 359, 230 N.W.2d 430. 49. In re Weldon, 397 Mich. 225, 276-277, 244 N.W.2d 827 (1976) (opinion of Coleman, J.), overruled on other grounds in Bowie, 50. Henrikson v. Gable, 162 Mich.App. 248, 25......
  • Greenfield Const. Co. Inc. v. Michigan Dept. of State Highways, 1
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • January 25, 1978
  • In re Sanders, Docket No. 146680.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • June 2, 2014
    ...parents, we need not consider Laird's argument that the doctrine also violates the Equal Protection Clause. 18. See, e.g., In re Weldon, 397 Mich. 225, 296, 244 N.W.2d 827 (1976) (“Some parents, however, because of illness, incarceration, employment or other reason, entrust the care of thei......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT