Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Luzerne County Parental Rights Catastrophe

Gary Visgaitis Times Leader

This story featured in the Times Leader details more failures concerning children handled by the Luzerne County court system. The Times Leader investigation points to failure for parents who challenged the termination of their parental rights or the involuntary adoption of their children have seen their appeals dismissed because the Public Defender’s Office or other court-appointed attorneys failed to follow proper court procedure, according to a review of cases filed with the state Superior Court.

The revelation prompted newly appointed county Chief Public Defender Al Flora Jr. to launch an investigation. He is reviewing records, including those identified by The Times Leader, to determine if anything can or should be done to seek to restore the appeals.

The newspaper’s review showed that in nine of the 15 cases at issue, the appeals were filed, but later dismissed because the attorneys failed to file the required legal briefs that detail the errors the trial judge allegedly committed.

In another six cases, the appeals were “quashed” – a legal term that refers to the dismissal of an appeal for failure to comply with some other aspect of appellate court procedure, such as filing the appeal late.

The lack of action by the attorneys means the parents were deprived of their right to have the Superior Court review the lower court ruling to determine if it was properly entered – a result an advocate for parental rights described as “appalling.”

It is amazing that types of injustices occuring within the halls of justice.

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