H.A., In re, 84-257

Decision Date01 May 1987
Docket NumberNo. 84-257,84-257
Citation528 A.2d 756,148 Vt. 106
CourtVermont Supreme Court
PartiesIn re H.A., Juvenile.

Martin and Paolini, Barre, for defendant-appellant.

Jean Anne Kiewel, Bellows Falls, for defendant-appellee.

Before ALLEN, C.J., HILL, PECK and GIBSON, JJ., * and BARNEY, C.J. (Ret.), Specially Assigned.

PECK, Justice.

The mother of H.A., an eight-year-old girl, appeals a disposition order of the Juvenile Court for Windham County transferring legal custody of her child to the Commissioner of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS). We affirm.

The primary issue raised on appeal is whether the disposition order is supported by the lower court's findings of fact. H.A.'s mother argues that the court made no finding regarding her fitness as a parent, and she maintains that the sole finding arguably relating to parental fitness is not supported by the evidence. Counsel for the child, on the other hand, contends that proper and supportable findings were made and that, in any event, the request for a new hearing is moot.

On March 12, 1984, the state's attorney for Windham County filed a petition under the provisions of chapter 12 of Title 33 V.S.A. alleging that H.A. was a child in need of care. The petition was supported by an affidavit of probable cause to believe that the child had been abused sexually by her father. After an emergency detention hearing, H.A. was ordered temporarily detained. A hearing on the merits followed on March 23, 1984, and the court concluded, on the basis of a stipulation by the parties, that H.A. was a child in need of care and supervision. The stipulation did not identify the source of the alleged sexual abuse. The child's father admitted only that during periods of inebriation he had used a belt to discipline H.A., and the court emphasized that it was making no finding on the sexual abuse issue.

At the subsequent disposition hearing, held on May 2, 1984, appellant argued that her daughter should be returned to her custody subject to any conditions the court deemed appropriate. Counsel for the child countered with expert testimony and the results of an extensive evaluation by a forensic team, as well as the stipulation from the detention proceedings. The court concluded that a return to the mother's custody would not be in the best interests of the child, and legal custody was transferred to SRS.

As a threshold matter, counsel for H.A. argues that this appeal is moot because a dispositional review hearing was held while the appeal was pending. "The general rule is that a case becomes moot 'when the issues presented are no longer "live" or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.' " In re S.H., 141 Vt. 278, 280, 448 A.2d 148, 149 (1982) (quoting Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496, 89 S.Ct. 1944, 1951, 23 L.Ed.2d 491 (1969)). Counsel for the child maintains that the hearing court ordered the return of H.A. to the care of her parents, upon their compliance with certain conditions, and that this order gives the mother her requested relief. This characterization of the court's order is erroneous. The focus of the dispositional review hearing was a case plan prepared by SRS, in which a return to the parental home, subject to a series of conditions, was proposed. The hearing court approved this plan in part but disapproved it in part because the plan failed to address the father's use of alcohol and his possible involvement in sexual abuse. The court ordered that custody remain with SRS. Thus, the parties have a continuing interest in the outcome of this appeal, and the doctrine of mootness does not apply.

A primary purpose of Vermont's Juvenile Procedure Act is "to provide for the care, protection and wholesome moral, mental and physical development of children coming within the provisions of this chapter; ...." 33 V.S.A. § 631(a)(1). However, the statute also provides that this purpose must be achieved "whenever possible, in a family environment, separating the child from his parents only when necessary for his...

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8 cases
  • P.S., In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • August 8, 1997
    ...moot when the issues presented are no longer "live" or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome. In re H.A., 148 Vt. 106, 108, 528 A.2d 756, 757 (1987). The actual controversy must be present at all stages of review, not just when the case was filed. See Doria v. Univer......
  • C.L., In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • April 14, 1989
    ...cases and thus governs this review: findings of fact will stand if there is any credible evidence supporting them. In re H.A., 148 Vt. 106, 109, 528 A.2d 756, 757 (1987); In re T.L.S., 144 Vt. 536, 540, 481 A.2d 1037, 1039 (1984). A review of the pertinent facts The evidence showed that pri......
  • In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (Mtbe) Products, 1:00-189. MDL 1358(SAS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • May 12, 2005
    ......and Irving Oil to sign." 20 Enclosed with the letter was "a copy of the release which Mark Cote, Fire Chief, ha[d] signed" on January 10, 1999. 21 The signature line reads "Fire Chief, Hartland Volunteer Fire Department." 22 .         The release ......
  • R.B., In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • August 4, 1989
    ...for the care, protection and wholesome moral, mental and physical development of children." 33 V.S.A. § 631(a)(1); In re H.A., 148 Vt. 106, 108, 528 A.2d 756, 757 (1987). Thus, our primary concern must be with the welfare of the child. In re Rathburn, 128 Vt. 429, 434, 266 A.2d 423, 426 (19......
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