Labels: appeal of termination of parental rights, appellate review, child welfare, criminal conviction reversed; statutory interpretation; appeal, guardians, jurisdiction over the child, plain meaning
In a recent case, In the Matter of Kloosterman, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued March 26, 2013 (Docket No. 312138), the Court of Appeals had the opportunity to examine the meaning of MCL 712A.2(b), the provision which permits a trial court to take jurisdiction over the child in a child welfare proceeding. In the case, Respondent-Father was appealing an order terminating his parental rights to his minor child. The petition had been filed by Respondent-Father’s parents, who were the minor child’s grandparent-guardians. The minor had lived with the grandparents for several years, and after unsuccessful attempts at convincing Respondent-Father to let them adopt the child, they filed the petition under MCL 3.977(2). Interestingly, when the grandparents filed the petition, Respondent-Father was serving a 6-20 year sentence for conducting a criminal enterprise. However, in May 2012, the Court of Appeals reversed that conviction in People v Kloosterman, 296 Mich App 636; 823 NW2d 134 (2012). The Trial Court determined that it has subject matter jurisdiction under MCL 712A.2(b)(1) and (2), and terminated Respondent-Father’s rights to the minor child under MCL 712A.19b(3)(g). On appeal, the Court of Appeals, using the plain meaning doctrine, reversed the Trial Court’s order. The Court noted that the Trial Court had improperly expanded the meaning of MCL 712A.2(b)(1) and (2) in an effort to bring the child with the Trial Court’s jurisdiction. The Court noted that subsection (1) could not apply because “parent or other person legally responsible” clearly would apply to the grandparent-guardians, and not the father, and subsection (2) could not apply, because the plain meaning of that section did not encompass “the broader social environment of the child.” In the Matter of Kloosterman, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued March 26, 2013 (Docket No. 312138). Since the Court reversed based on the jurisdictional issue, it never reached the statutory ground(s) or best interest determination. In light of the Respondent-Father’s conviction being overturned, it will be particularly interesting to see how these analyses might change should another petition be filed, and whether or not proper jurisdiction can be found in the first place.