This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of C. J., Parent.
Filed September 6, 2005
Hennepin County District Court
File No. J7-04-54609, Family ID No. 212927
Leonardo Castro, Hennepin County Public Defender, Barbara S. Isaacman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant C.J.)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Mary M. Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, Health Services Building, 525 Portland Avenue, Suite 1210, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent Hennepin County Department of Children and Family Services)
Jessica Kramer, Niemi, Barr & Jerabek, P.A., 510 Marquette Avenue, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent guardian ad litem Victor Walker)
Shirley Reider, 842 Raymond Avenue, Suite 205, St. Paul, MN 55114 (for respondent guardian ad litem Valorie Jones)
John Hughes, 247 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent I.J.)
David Desmidt, 3001 Hennepin Avenue South, Suite 309B, Minneapolis, MN 55408 (for respondents A.W. and I.J.)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Forsberg, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant C. J. challenges the district court’s order adjudicating her six minor children as children in need of protection or services (CHIPS) and the district court’s order denying her request for a new trial. Appellant contends that (1) the district court violated her right to due process when the court adopted findings proposed by one of the respondents in the CHIPS order; (2) the district court’s evidentiary rulings and reliance on inadmissible evidence violated her right to due process and deprived her of a fair trial; (3) the admissible trial evidence does not support the district court’s CHIPS adjudication; and (4) the district court erred in determining that a CHIPS adjudication was in the best interests of each of appellant’s children. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
This court will not disturb findings
in a CHIPS proceeding unless the findings are clearly erroneous or unsupported
by substantial evidence. In re Welfare of B.A.B., 572 N.W.2d 776,
Appellant contends that her right to procedural due process was violated because the district court adopted the proposed findings submitted by the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department (Department) nearly verbatim. But appellant acknowledges that the district court did make some changes to the proposed findings and included independent findings that were not part of the proposed findings. Moreover, the district court set forth additional findings in its order denying appellant’s motion for a new trial. Review of the district court’s order shows that the court independently considered all of the issues, and review of the record shows that it supports the district court’s findings. See Wilson v. Moline, 234 Minn. 174, 182, 47 N.W.2d 865, 870 (1951) (stating that appellate court need not “discuss and review in detail the evidence for the purpose of demonstrating that it supports the trial court’s findings” and that its “duty is performed when [it] consider[s] all the evidence . . . and determine[s] that it reasonably supports the findings”); Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 474-75 n.1 (Minn. App. 2000) (applying Wilson in dissolution case).
In a juvenile-protection matter,
unless otherwise provided by statute or the rules of juvenile-protection
procedure, the district court shall admit evidence only if it would be
admissible in a civil trial. Minn. R.
Juv. Prot. P. 3.02, subd. 1. Absent an
erroneous interpretation of the law, the district court is afforded broad
discretion in deciding whether to admit or exclude evidence. In re
Child of Simon, 662 N.W.2d 155, 160 (
Appellant contends that the district court deprived her of a fair trial and violated her right to due process by making erroneous evidentiary rulings and relying on inadmissible evidence introduced through the testimony of two social workers. We disagree.
In its order denying appellant’s motion for a new trial, the district court noted that
in making its decision, the court relied primarily upon the admissions of [appellant] and her in-court testimony in which she described in detail her physical discipline of the children, which included beatings with a belt, and on one occasion a dog leash. [Appellant] further testified that she had a right to discipline her children in that fashion, citing as authority the Bible. [Appellant] has consistently indicated, as she stated at trial, that she does not intend to stop beating her children. [Appellant] also acknowledged, in and out of court, her history of poor parenting, which history is consistent with the Department’s concerns. The court observed the effect of [appellant’s] behavior and testimony on the children who were present in the court. It is of perhaps greatest concern to the court and to the various professionals involved that [appellant] is determined to blame her children for the current problems, and to portray herself as the victim.
Because of appellant’s own admissions regarding her physical discipline of the children, even if the district court had improperly admitted certain evidence, appellant failed to demonstrate prejudicial error.
But in addition, we cannot say as a
matter of law that the district court abused its broad discretion in its evidentiary
rulings. To support her argument that
the district court erred in admitting certain documents, appellant relies in
part on Simon. See Simon,
662 N.W.2d at 160-61 (holding that a testifying social worker failed to lay the
necessary foundation for certain documents to be admitted under the
business-records exception to the rule against hearsay). But Simon
does not establish a new rule of law.
Rather, it merely demonstrates that the decision to admit evidence is
highly fact-specific and shows that questions of foundation depend on the
circumstances of each case. See Benson v. N. Gopher Enters., 455
N.W.2d 445, 446 (
Moreover, the supreme court has held
that the business-records exception to the rule against hearsay applies to
documents in a social worker’s file, such as reports from a psychologist, a
doctor, a social worker, a counselor, a teacher, a psychiatrist, and a speech
pathologist. See In re Welfare of Brown, 296 N.W.2d 430, 433-35 (
reviewing a CHIPS adjudication, this court must determine whether the district
court’s findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence. In re
Welfare of J.M.S., 268 N.W.2d 424, 428 (
Appellant contends that there is no substantial evidence in the record to support the district court’s CHIPS adjudication. Appellant claims that by relying “on inadmissible hearsay and irrelevant evidence, [the Department] failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the five younger children should be adjudicated CHIPS.” But as discussed above, the challenged evidence was properly admitted by the district court, and it adequately supports the CHIPS adjudication.
“The paramount consideration in all
proceedings concerning a child alleged or found to be in need of protection or
services is the health, safety, and best interests of the child.”
Appellant argues that the district court erred in adjudicating her children CHIPS and in ordering out-of-home placement because the court did not make individualized findings for each child. But appellant provides no authority for the proposition that it is reversible error for a district court to make a CHIPS adjudication and to order out-of-home placement for more than one child without making express findings unique to each child. Here, the district court concluded that there was ample evidence that appellant’s children are in need of protection and services under Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subd. 6(2), (3), (8), and (9) (2004). The record supports this conclusion with respect to each child. And the record supports the court’s case plan requiring out-of-home placement.