In re Child of Brooke B., 013020 MESC, Yor-19-350

Docket Nº:Yor-19-350
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM
Party Name:IN RE CHILD OF BROOKE B.
Attorney:Vicki Mathews, Esq., Scarborough, for appellant mother Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services
Judge Panel:Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
Case Date:January 30, 2020
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
 
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2020 ME 20

IN RE CHILD OF BROOKE B.

No. Yor-19-350

Supreme Court of Maine

January 30, 2020

Submitted On Briefs: January 23, 2020

Vicki Mathews, Esq., Scarborough, for appellant mother

Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services

Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

PER CURIAM

[¶1] Brooke B. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Biddeford, Duddy, J.) finding that her child was in circumstances of jeopardy to the child's health or welfare and ordering that the child remain in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. See 22 M.R.S. §§ 4035(2), 4036(1)(A) (2018). The mother contends that (1) her right to due process was violated by the way that the trial judge conducted the hearing, which demonstrated that the judge was not impartial; and (2) certain of the court's factual findings were clearly erroneous. We affirm the judgment.1

A. Due Process

[¶2] The court made it clear to all parties throughout the hearing that the time available was limited, and the court interjected at several points to remind all parties of the need to focus their presentations. The evidence presented on the first day of the two-day hearing was largely at the discretion of the Department, and the evidence presented on the second day was largely at the discretion of the mother.

[¶3] Contrary to the mother's contention that she was deprived of due process because the trial judge did not act impartially, the court's actions and comments are best viewed as an attempt to assist her in completing her case within the allotted time by advising her as to the areas of inquiry that the court deemed most important.[2] See State v. Bard, 2018 ME 38, ¶ 43, 181 A.3d 187 ("Statements made by a judge during... judicial proceedings will not constitute bias or prejudice except in the extraordinary circumstances in which those statements reveal a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible." (alteration and quotation marks omitted)).

[¶4] Even in cases where fundamental rights are at issue, trial courts have broad discretion to control the order and timing of the presentation of evidence and to set and enforce reasonable time limits on hearings. Dolliver v. Dolliver, 2001 ME 144, ¶¶ 10-12, 782 A.2d 316; Bradford v. Dumond, 675 A.2d 957, 962-63 (Me. 1996).

[¶5] The court did not restrict or direct the mother's presentation of her case apart from the time limitation, which it imposed on the Department's case as well. See M.R. Evid. 611(a) ("The court must exercise reasonable control over the mode and order of examining witnesses and presenting evidence so as to ... [m]ake those procedures effective for determining the truth [and] [a]void wasting time."). See also Field & Murray,

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